NFA to engage civil society groups for rice monitoring

By DANESSA O. RIVERA. Originally published on GMA News Online.

Aware of its limitations in monitoring rice supply, the National Food Authority (NFA) is signing agreements with non-government institutions in a program aimed to curb wastage, smuggling, price manipulation and other illegal activities on the country's staple food.

"Ang pagtatag ng partnerships with organizations like Kaya Natin, church groups [ay dahil] hindi po kaya ng NFA bantayan ang lahat... kaya kailangan namin ang tulong ng civil society para po matulungan ang NFA na mabantayan ang NFA rice na mapunta sa mga kababayang mahihirap," NFA administrator Renan Dalisay said in a briefing in Quezon City on Wednesday.

The agency is pushing for "Bantay Bigas," a joint effort with the private sector to monitor the movement of rice in localities to guard against hoarding, price manipulation, illegal repacking and other activities that cut off the poor from the inexpensive but quality rice due them.

On Wednesday, the NFA signed its first memorandum of agreement under Bantay Bigas with Kaya Natin! Movement, a civil society organization that promotes good governance.

The partnership under Bantay Bigas will help NFA in ensuring rice supply, while the agency works to sanitize its ranks, Presidential Adviser on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said in the same brieing.

He noted that 18 provincial managers and inspectors had to go through disciplinary action because of illegal activities done in their locality.

"In a way it's good because we would like to make sure we set the tone, that we will not tolerate excesses or abuse," Pangilinan said.

"Malaking bagay talaga ang participation ng local governments, pribadong sektor sa mga lugar para tiyakin na 'yung bigas ay mapupunta sa tama," the food czar added.

The distribution of NFA rice against the total rice supply is currently at 26 percent due to several factors like wastage, diversion, rebagging, among others.

"We cannot change a problem that has been around for decades in a few months' time. But what is important is we begin the process," Pangilinan said.

"By the end of our term, we hope these institutional reforms will survive us and will be continued by those who will succeed us," he added.