Employees of the National Food Authority (NFA) in Palawan are shown in this photo on Monday, February 18, wearing black to protest the signing of the rice tariffication law by President Rodrigo Duterte. (Photo courtesy of NFA)

Employees of the National Food Authority (NFA) in Palawan joined the agency’s nationwide “Black Monday” protest to express their indignation on the signing into law of the Rice Tariffication Bill by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Duterte signed Republic Act No 11203 hoping that liberalizing importation, exportation and trading of rice will make the price of the food staple go down to become affordable to many Filipinos.

Nerilyn Conde, assistant NFA provincial manager, said Monday that their nationwide protest aims to show national officials the sentiments of all employees of their agency.

“Today is a Black Monday para sa NFA nationwide so we are wearing black para ipakita at iparamdam sa ating president at sa ating mga mambabatas na kami ay nalulungkot. Ang NFA ngayon ay nagluluksa dahil nga dito sa tariffication bill na ang magiging effect nito ay maybe may mawawalan ng trabaho na mga employees ng NFA,” Conde said.

Conde said pending the release of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the law, they are clueless about what will happen now to their operations.

She said they are not aware when the IRR will be passed down by their central office. What they will do is just to work and continue with their daily tasks.

“Patuloy lang kami magtratrabaho, patuloy kami makikipag-ugnayan sa mga farmer. Handa ang bawat isa sa ano mang mapaloob sa implementing rules and regulations. Higit sa lahat, kami ay positive na ang NFA ay hindi mawawala,” she added.

Under the law, the function of the NFA to license, regulate and monitor the rice industry will be removed.

The agency will just be limited to buying rice from local farmers as buffer stock during calamities, said Conde, assuring the NFA in Palawan still have enough rice stocks in their inventory to distribute to accredited retailers.

Currently, the NFA has 6,902 bags of palay that were purchased since December 2018.

In February, it has bought 2,100 bags of which 1,535 were sourced from Rizal town, 319 bags from Narra, and 248 from Puerto Princesa City.

“Kung ano man ang inventory ng NFA as of today, ‘yon ang ating ipapamahagi sa ating mga retailers. As of today, may inventory, may mabibili pa rin na NFA rice sa ating market. Sisikapin naming makapamili ng palay for this year na ito ang magbibigay ng buffer stock natin,” she said.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) allotted P7 billion for the NFA for procuring palay from local farmers this year.

Employees of the NFA are opposed to the tariffication law because it will remove rice importation restrictions and snuff out their regulatory powers.

In Manila, NFA officer-in-charge Tomas Escarez assured employees they will not lose their jobs because of the new law, assuring the management will find best deals for them along the way.

However, he said it will seriously affect not only the “Filipino farmers but also the consumers, small grains businessmen, and employees who rely on NFA for support, livelihood, affordable rice, food safety, food security and order in the grains industry.”

Republic Act No 11203 was signed into law by Duterte on February 14.

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is one of the senior reporters of Palawan News. She covers agriculture, business, and different feature stories. Her interests are collecting empty bottles, aesthetic earrings, and anything that is color yellow.