President Rodrigo Duterte
PASAY CITY, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday (September 2) said he is not firing Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol and National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator Jason Aquino over rice woes in the country.
During his speech before departure to Israel, the President said he does not see any reason to dismiss them from office amid criticisms over rice issues.
“Maybe the laws are weak or unenforceable. All we have to do is to improve on those laws, not necessarily fire people. I don’t see any serious offense there. We have really not lost anything except that there’s aberration in the market,” Duterte said.
Calls for Piñol and Aquino’s resignation are mounting for their alleged incompetence in handling the rice crisis that includes insufficient supply, high prices and weevil infestation on imported rice.
In a statement, Secretary Piñol thanked the President for his continued trust and confidence.”
“I promise to do my best to live up to his and the Filipino’s expectations,” Piñol said.
During his speech, the President mistakenly referred to Piñol as Secretary Silvestre Bello III, who he said would pursue a bid in the 2019 senatorial race.
“Hintayin na lang ninyo because October, I think, Bello is going to run for senator. There’s no need to fire him,” the President said.
In reaction to this, Piñol said that if it was him, he believes that it was just one of the President’s jokes.
“I don’t know if the President was referring to me when he said ‘Bello’ will run for senator. If it was me, I know the President was just joking,” he said.
“The President is aware that I neither have plans nor desire to run for the Senate as I have intimated this to him in previous conversations,” the Secretary added. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Nel Maribojoc)