The Daily Manila Shimbun


Evasco out as NFA Council chair

April 17, 2018

President Rodrigo Duterte has removed Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. as head of the National Food Authority (NFA) Council as he decided to bring back the NFA under the Department of Agriculture (DA).

The decision was reached during the NFA Council meeting on Monday in Malacanang.

"The NFA Council will not be abolished," said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

He said Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) has requested to be relieved as a member of the council, so it may focus on its other projects. The request was approved.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will take the place of DBP.

"The NFA, the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), and the Fertilizer and Pesticides Authority (FPA) will be made attached agencies of the Department of Agriculture (DA)," Roque added.

With the NFA under the DA, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol said "it follows" that he would chair the NFA Council.

During the previous administration, those agencies were placed under the Office of the President from the DA. When Duterte assumed office, they were moved under Office of the Cabinet Secretary.

Evasco, in a statement, said he has "full respect" with the President's decision "given the encompassing nature and impact" of the NFA on Filipino people and the farmers.

Duterte's decision to bring back the NFA under the DA apparently was prompted by the contradicting positions of Evasco as head of NFA Council and Jason Aquino, NFA administrator, on the importation of rice.

Aquino insisted for the importation of 250,000 metric tons of rice as early as January due to the depletion of NFA rice buffer stock. But Evasco doubted there was looming NFA rice shortage. However, late last month, NFA buffer stock was wiped out.

Duterte has ordered the immediate importation of 250,000 metric tons of rice.

"Authority has been given to import 250,000 MT through government to government (G2G) mode to replenish the rice inventory.  Imported rice is set to arrive soon," Roque said.

He said subsequent importation will be done by government-to-private (G2P) or auction and importation will be implemented or supervised by the Executive Council Committee headed by the Office of the President (OP).

Evasco said during his one-and-a-half years stint at NFA Council, they have put in place several policy guidelines that have provided a "more transparent, competitive, inclusive and accountable system of procurement and distribution" Of NFA rice.

"The importation of close to 805,200 metric tons of MAV (minimum access volume) rice without a cent spent by Government is also an attempt by the council and this administration to not add to the liabilities it has incurred since its creation through Presidential Decree No. 1770," he said.

Evasco also said in his more than 20 years in government public service, including three terms as mayor of municipality of Maribojoc in Bohol, he was never charged with any case.

"With the President's decision to transfer the governance to the next council chair, I believe that NFA can now move forward towards ensuring that corrupt, exclusive and debt-ridden practices during the past administrations will not reign in the next transactions to pass," Evasco said. Celerina Monte/DMS