NFA Launches 'Bantay Bigas'

Originally published on The Visayan Daily Star.

MANILA -- The National Food Authority and the Kaya Natin Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Standards (Kaya Natin) launched  Wednesday a rice monitoring project to curb, if not totally eliminate, nefarious activities that cut off the poor from the supply of NFA rice.

The project, called Bantay Bigas, aims to harness Kaya Natin volunteers to monitor the movement of NFA rice in their localities  to guard against hoarding, price manipulation, illegal repacking and other activities that prevents the poor from access to the inexpensive but quality rice that the government agency is providing.

Kaya Natin, a movement formed by former Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, is an elite corps of current and former public servants who are well known for their stand and actions against corruption and malfeasance in government.

Presidential Adviser on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization, Francis Pangilinan, said the project represents the resolve of the NFA, an agency under his office, to partner with civil society in its task of guaranteeing food security, particularly to Filipinos most in need.

He took special note of a study which bared that only 26 percent of NFA rice distributed by the food agency reaches the poor.

NFA rice is being sold in the market in two categories: P27 per kilo for its 25 percent broken variety; and P32/kg for its 15 percent broken  while  commercial rice is currently being sold at P40/kg and above.

Pangilinan said that his office is now looking towards entering into similar partnerships with church-based groups, people’s organizations, local chambers of commerce and other civil society groups in order to further strengthen government’s ability to assure rice security.

Meanwhile, Amie Hernandez, Kaya Natin executive director and incumbent town councilor of Nagcarlan, Laguna, said that her group would serve as the ‘ears on the grounds’ of NFA and warn the food agency if the inexpensive rice is reaching the poor without impediment.

The NFA in turn, activates systems for quick reaction to the information provided by Kaya Natin and use its powers to cut through the impediments.*PNA