THE Philippine National Food Authority (NFA) is already preparing for the eventual downsizing of its functions and scope as a grains agency following the passage of the Rice Import Liberalization Act.
Under the law, the NFA will be limited to procuring local paddy rice and maintaining the country’s buffer stock, thereby stripping it of its power to regulate, license, market and monitor activities related to the staple.
According to the first draft of the law’s implementing rules and regulations written by officials of the National Economic and Development Authority, the NFA will be given 10 million pesos ($192,234) to ensure its smooth and timely transition to a new rice trade regime.
The amount does not include the compensation packages that would be given to employees who would be affected by the restructuring plan.
NFA employees association president Maxie Torda said that while most retirees were already opting to take the package, some employees still preferred continuing to work for the agency. Records showed the NFA has 4,136 employees nationwide.
According to NFA acting administrator Tomas Escarez, about 1,000 employees may lose their jobs from the restructuring plan, but this is a conservative estimate given the agency’s major function is linked to managing imports.
Members of the employees’ group are fearing a gradual phase-out starting with the removal of employees related to the agency’s regulatory and enforcement functions. Workers whose tasks are related to imports were seen to be terminated once the agency’s imports are depleted sometime in August.
In a Facebook post, Escarez said “it is still business as usual at NFA”, adding the agency would continue to aggressively buy paddy rice from farmers and distribute cheap rice in the markets. PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK