Senators grill NFA officials over ‘rotten rice’ in warehouse

Marje Pelayo   •   August 29, 2019   •   919

Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food chair Sen. Cynthia A. Villar asks Department of Agriculture (DA) officials led by DA Secretary William Dar where the P4 billion in funds that should have gone to programs for increasing the production of local farmers under the rice tariffication law went.  (Courtesy: Senate of the Philippines)

MANILA, Philippines – Senators expressed dismay over the National Food Authority (NFA) for not giving priority on buying local farmers yield.

During the hearing of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food on Thursday (August 29), senators grilled the agency’s officials after receiving multiple reports from local farmers.

“Lahat ng tao sinisisi na kayo (The blame is on you),” Committee chair Senator Cynthia Villar said.

“Kapag pumupunta ako sa probinsya tinatanong ko: “Binilhan ba kayo ng NFA?” Sasabihin nila: “Hindi po kasi po mataas daw ang moisture content namin,” the senator said citing her conversation with farmers.

(Every time I went to the provinces, I would ask (the farmers): “Did NFA purchase your yield?” They would say: “No because of our palay’s high moisture content.)

Senator Imee Marcos, meanwhile, pressed the NFA to confirm the alleged millions of bags of rice being rotten inside one of the agency’s warehouses.

“Ipagtapat na natin ang totoo. Nine million bags pa ng imported rice ang nabubulok sa NFA na bodega kaya ayaw ninyong bumili ng local?,” the senator asked NFA Administrator Judy Dansal.

(Be honest. There are still nine million bags of imported rice now decaying in NFA warehouse, the reason why you do not procure from local farmers?)

Dansal confirmed Marcos’ claim though she corrected the figure to four million bags, not nine million.

Also present in the hearing are Senators Imee Marcos, Risa Hontiveros and Nancy Binay. (Courtesy: Senate of the Philippines)

The NFA officials asked the lawmakers to give them time to handle and resolve the matter in compliance with the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte in line with the agency’s new mandate under the Rice Tariffication Act.

“Idedeklarang bulok tapos i-o-auction sa mga paboritong traders, huwag naman (They were declared spoiled then would you auction them to your favorite traders? That shouldn’t be done),” Marcos said.

“Hindi naman po. Sana bigyan niyo naman kami ng pagkakataon mayroon naman tayong new leadership. Hindi naman po tayo masama at di naman po kami nag bebenta ng bulok (Of course not. Please give us time to handle things under our new leadership. We are not bad people and we don’t sell rotten rice),” Dansal replied.

Meanwhile, Villar calls on concerned government agencies to expedite the distribution of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) so that local farmers will have a budget for purchasing farm equipment to improve their yield. – MNP (with details from Grace Casin)

Senate panel to begin probe on alleged ‘red-tagging’ activities of military officials

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 30, 2020

The Senate panel will begin its inquiry next week (November 3) on the alleged ‘red-tagging’ activities of military officials.

Senator Panfilo Lacson filed Senate Resolution No. 559 and will summon Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Southern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr.

Parlade drew the ire of netizens after he warned actress Liza Soberano and Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray, against associating with the Gabriela Women’s Party-list, which he accused of having links with the New People’s Army.

Lacson said the resolution aims to resolve issues as well as draft guidelines to avoid misunderstandings between the military and the public.

The Senator will be inviting other officials from the Department of National Defense and the AFP.  

He added that the Gabriela Women’s Party-list and other militant groups will also be invited to the inquiry.

“We will also invite Gabriela and other militant groups para maliwanagan natin saan ba nag-uugat iyong misunderstanding at saka iyong conflict pagdating sa red-tagging, red-baiting, (to shed light on the root of the misunderstanding and the conflict when it comes to red-tagging, red-baiting)” he said. AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado).

Sotto sees 2021 National Budget ready before the year ends

Marje Pelayo   •   October 28, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III is confident that the 2021 National Budget will be ready for the signing of President Rodrigo Duterte before the end of the year.

Sotto thanked House Speaker Allan Velasco for submitting the proposed budget earlier than the expected of October 28.

This will give the Senate subcommittees time to complete their reports before they submit to the Senate Committee on Finance.

On November 10, Senator Sonny Angara is expected to sponsor the bill to the plenary.

Senators will then bring the budget bill under a period of interpellations from November 11 to 17 followed by the period of amendments on November 24.

Sotto expects that there will be no problems in the bicameral conference and the bicam report will be approved by December 8.

The Senate expects the President to sign the bill on December 25.

“We still have to work overtime,” Sotto said, considering the number of agencies and sub agencies that they have to deliberate on.

“We will probably end up everyday around 12 midnight or 1:00 AM para lang matapos namin ang [just to finish the] period of interpellations by the 17th,” he added.

One agency that they intend to scrutinize well is the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPHW) particularly the issue on alleged lump sums and and big budget allocations to selected local government projects.

He stressed that deliberations will not be affected even if Senator Cynthia Villar has to face her son DPWH Secretary Mark Villar in the deliberations.

“We will not soft-pedal on DPWH. Knowing Cynthia (Villar), hinahayaan lang naman niya [she just let everything flow]. I’ve seen it in the past. Ang daming interpellations sa DPWH hindi naman siya nang-aawat [Many times DPWH entered into interpellations she never interrupted]. It’s alright,” he said. MNP (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

House to transmit 2021 budget to Senate ahead of Oct. 28 deadline – Velasco

Robie de Guzman   •   October 27, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives is set to transmit to the Senate its version of the P4.506-trillion proposed 2021 national budget, a day before the promised date of Oct. 28, Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said Tuesday.

Velasco earlier said he and Senate President Vicente Sotto III agreed on the date as the deadline of transmission.

The House speaker said the record-high budget was designed to further strengthen government response and stimulate economic recovery in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We increased the allocation for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines by more than three-fold to cover more Filipinos. We also provided extra allocation for the facilities enhancement program of the Department of Health to help improve the country’s health care system,” Velasco said in a statement.

“The House-approved version of the budget also has additional funding for the Department of Labor and Employment to aid workers displaced by COVID-19 and for the Department of Social Welfare and Development for another round of financial assistance to families affected by the pandemic,” he added.

The lower chamber passed the budget bill on third and final reading last Oct. 17 after it was certified as urgent by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The bill was approved a few days after Velasco was elected to the House’s top post following the removal of Taguig-Pateros Representative Alan Peter Cayetano as Speaker. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Vincent Arboleda)

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