NFA chief’s resignation ‘suspicious’ — farmers’ group

By Katherine Adraneda,

The Philippine STAR Nation

Publication Date: Monday, January 08, 2007



A farmers’ organization expressed concern yesterday over the resignation of Gregorio Tan Jr. as administrator of the National Food Authority (NFA), finding it "suspicious" in the wake of preparations for the May mid-term elections.

The group, Rice Watch and Action Network (R1), urged the public to be vigilant on what it claimed could be "other possible reorganization plans" in the Department of Agriculture, following the re-appointment of Secretary Arthur Yap to the agency late last year.

"We cannot help getting skeptical about the sudden resignation of Tan as the government seems to be subtly weeding out ‘undesirable’ elements in the agency and gearing its machinery toward the 2007 elections," said Jessica Reyes-Cantos, lead convener of R1.

Cantos said the executive branch has been pushing for the inclusion of the P4-billion School Feeding Program in the proposed 2007 national budget. Bulk of the program would involve the procurement of imported rice which would be distributed to schools.

The program’s budget, however, was among the issues that caused the deadlock in the bicameral deliberations on the proposed General Appropriations Act of 2007.

Rep. Joey Salceda, chairman of the House appropriations committee, stood behind the executive branch’s proposal to retain the P4-billion program, while Sen. Franklin Drilon drastically slashed it by half and allotted the rest for new classrooms and teachers.

Civil society groups under the Social Watch Philippines backed Drilon’s move.

Cantos said the controversy involving former DA Undersecretary Jocelyn "Joc-joc" Bolante is still unresolved and that poor Filipino farmers can no longer afford "another squander of funds."

Bolante is tagged as the key to solving the purported anomaly in the disbursement of funds from the administration’s rice and fertilizer program, which were allegedly used in the campaign of President Arroyo in the May 2004 elections.

Tan quit his post reportedly because his job was no longer favorable to his health and that he supposedly intends to take care of his aging mother.

Tan filed his resignation "as early as November" and it took effect last Dec. 31, NFA spokesman Rex Estoperez said. Deputy administrator Jessup Navarro took over as acting NFA chief.




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