The House led by Arroyo previously gave the final reading of a pricing bill that would put an end to the NFA's monopoly on imports of rice by removing quantitative restrictions such as import quotas or prohibitions on agricultural products and replacing them with tariffs.
"They have to import and if we regulate imports, NFA might be abolished because it will then be liberalized, so it can be debated," she told the sidelines of a visit to an Aeta community in Pampanga.
"It can stay, it can go, I am neither here nor here about the situation, but the most important thing is that we have to be able to import the rice and have it arrive before October," she said.
She said she would check the status of a contra account in the Senate.
The call for the abolition of the NFA has been overtaken after the sharp rise in the price of rice.
Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos also supported the abolition of the NFA.
On the Nanka media message Marcos broke the NFA because it did not fulfill its mandate and tackled the rising prices of rice.
"Perhaps it is [high] time to abolish the NFA. It is made by father, but I tell you this, the NFA has defeated its purpose, "she said.
Senators Aquilino Pimentel III and Sherwin Gatcahalian beat the abolition of the NFA because they had not tackled the rice crisis in Zamboanga City.
But farmer groups said the NFA should be maintained to ensure that buffer stocks of rice are available in times of need.
The political groups also stressed the need for the NFA to continue granting rice importers licenses to prevent uncontrolled manipulation of stocks and pave the way for smooth liberalization of the rice trade.
"We support calls for reforms within the NFA to prevent reported anomalies … However, the alleged corruption within the agency should not be used as an excuse to dismantle the agency, which plays a very vital role in the food security of the country, "They said in a position paper on pricing.
The stakeholders include the Federation of Free Farmers, the Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (Pakisama) and 24 other groups.
Farmers said that the agency could buy farmers at competitive prices by regularly conducting auctions to supplement the buffer stocks. It can also develop services that close gaps in the value chain.
"Steps can also be taken to reduce the operating costs of the agency and generate revenue from services without necessarily expensive market intervention," they said.
Grain traders and millers also confirmed their support for the NFA despite calls for their abolition.
In letters and resolutions of support to President Rodrigo Duterte, the groups called for the reinforcement of the food agency instead of abolishing it. Instead of dismantling the NFA, the groups
ask the president to help the food agency by raising its procurement funds to compete with private traders in buying palay products from farmers.
The rice mills said the NFA was an important partner, giving them the opportunity to earn extra income from their milling operations.
In the meantime, the NFA's finance managers denied reports that money from employment agencies had been diverted.
Earlier reports reported that the Commission on Audit called on the NFA to divert its 2017 P5.1 billion purchase subsidy to the repayment of expiring loans, although CoA did not mention this in its final report.
The NFA said that all its funds and revenues, including the subsidy, accrue to a General Fund where all expenditures for operations, programs & projects for food security, and debt repayment have been repurchased.
But in its report from 2017, the CoA also mentioned the attention of the NFA for the incorrect storage of rice in its warehouses in the provinces.
State auditors said that the NFA warehouses in Zamboanga City, Isabela, Pampanga, Tarlac, Bulacan and Nueva Ecija did not follow the standard operating instructions for correct storage of rice.
The rice stocks in a warehouse in Malolos, Bulacan were exposed to pests and rains due to leaks in the ceilings, while CoA found that some bags of rice in Aurora's Casiguran warehouse had holes and animal debris and that pieces of paper were hung away from birds. CoA found cracks on the walls and floor of the warehouse in Isabela, while the warehouse of Zamboanga City allowed birds to enter the warehouse.
An NFA spokesperson, Rex Estoperez, said they were making efforts to improve the warehouses, but said they had no money for repairs.
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