Senators grill NFA officials over ‘rotten rice’ in warehouse

Marje Pelayo   •   August 29, 2019   •   1036

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)

Gordon files bill to expand country’s pool of vaccinators

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 21, 2021

Manila, Philippines — Senator Richard Gordon has filed a bill seeking to expand the country’s pool of vaccinators for the immunization program of the government.

Gordon, in a statement, said Senate Bill No. 1987 will allow training for other members in the medical field, as well as, non-medical practitioners.

“Since we have a limited number of doctors, nurses, and midwives that will aid in the COVID-19 vaccination program, we filed a bill that expands the pool of vaccinators of the DOH by training other professionals such as dentists, veterinarians, medical technologists, and even those without a medical background to be vaccinators,” he said.

Section 1 of Senate Bill No. 1987 states that non-medical practitioners that will be part of the training will be allowed provided that they will be given the appropriate training, certification and authority by the Department of Health (DOH), and that they will perform their duties under the supervision of a duly registered physician and for a limited period only contingent upon the existence of the national health emergency for which it is called.

Non-medical practitioners will be given appropriate training, certification, and authority by the Department of Health (DOH).

The filed bill also states that the trained individuals will perform their duties under the supervision of a duly registered physician and for a limited period only, subject to the existence of a national health emergency.

“If we expand the manpower for the vaccination program, the government’s target of inoculating 50 to 70 million Filipinos to be able to achieve herd immunity or population immunity can be attained,” Gordon added.

According to the DOH, only 617,239 health care workers from both public and private health institutions will be able to help in administering the COVID-19 vaccines. -AAC

Senators seek third hearing on government’s COVID-19 vaccine plan

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 18, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Several Senators seek a third hearing to further discuss the national government’s COVID-19 vaccine plan.

The Senate Committee of the Whole may call for another public hearing on the government’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

Senator Franklin Drilon, in a statement, said the two-day inquiry left more questions than answers.

“There are still a number of issues hanging. These too many unanswered questions raise grave concerns, for the survival of the country largely depends on our ability to implement a successful vaccination program against the COVID-19 virus,” he said.

Drilon noted that the pricing, the sourcing of the vaccines, the delivery schedules, and the logistical support plan are several of the urgent questions needed to be answered.

“We did not get any definite answers to these serious questions. I believe another round of hearing is in order. I support the call of Sen. Panfilo Lacson for more hearings,” he added. –AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

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Pangilinan called on DOH to reconsider Sinovac purchases

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 14, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Francis ‘Kiko’ Pangilinan called on the Department of Health to reconsider its order to purchase China’s Sinovac vaccine.

In a statement, the Senator noted the results of a new study in Brazil which showed Sinovac yielding a 50.4% efficacy rate. He also noted the vaccine price is steeper compared to the other vaccines with a higher efficacy rate.

“Sinovac, with just over 50 percent efficacy, is six times more expensive than AstraZeneca, which in contrast shows a 70-percent efficacy. Sinovac is more expensive yet it has the lowest efficacy. Given these latest findings, we call on the DOH to cancel the purchase of said vaccines,” he said.

Panginilan added that the country should procure vaccines on the basis of both higher efficacy and lower cost.

Based on data, Pfizer and BioNTech has an efficacy rate 95% and cost P2,379, Gamaleya is at 92% with a P1,220 price, and AstraZeneca is at 70% costing P610. Sinovac, meanwhile, costs P3,629.50.

The Philippines has secured 25 million doses from China’s Sinovac Biotech, with the first 50,000 expected to arrive in February.

Meanwhile, the Senate Committee of the Whole is scheduled to convene again on Friday, January 15, to further discuss the country’s vaccination program. -AAC


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