By Genalyn Kabiling
Outgoing National Food Authority (NFA) Jason Aquino could still be held accountable for the reported rice supply problems despite his intention to leave his post.
“It’s without prejudice, kung mayroong basehan para sa pananagutan [It’s without prejudice, if there is basis for accountability],” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said when asked if Aquino will be held liable for the rice shortage reported in some parts of the country.
“Pero sa ngayong po, abala ang Presidente na naghahanap ng kapalit ni Jason Aquino [But for now, the President is busy looking for a replacement of Jason Aquino],” he said during a Palace press briefing.
The President earlier announced that Aquino has offered to be relieved from his post because he was tired. Duterte said Aquino claimed he could no longer cope with the workings inside the NFA.
“I will scout for a new one,” Duterte said.
Some lawmakers recently called for the removal of Aquino following the shortage of government rice in the market that led to the price hikes of the commodity in the market. The government earlier decided to allow the importation of more rice to boost NFA stocks in the country.
Roque, meantime, said there was adequate supply of rice in the country, citing the addition of more stocks from local harvest as well as importation in the coming months.
“We assure the public that we have sufficient rice. We have 4.6 million sacks of rice available in NFA warehouses which will be released immediately,” he said.
He said around 2 million sacks of rice are scheduled to arrive in the country before the end of the month.
He said the National Food Authority Council has likewise approved the importation of 5 million sacks that will arrive over the next one and a half months. “Now, 2.7 million sacks will be allocated to ZAMBASULTA – Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi,” he said.
He said the government was also projecting a local harvest amounting to12.6 million metric tons or around 252 million sacks of rice this year.
“Another 5 million sacks of rice will be imported early next year,” he said.