By Jasper Y. Arcalas, August 6 2019; Business Mirror
Image Credit to Business Mirror
A YEAR and a half after its launch, the implementation of the rice-corn blend (RCB) project nationwide encountered a series of roadblocks, forcing corn growers to go back to the drawing board.
Philippine Maize Federation Inc. (PhilMaize) President Roger V. Navarro said recent events in the agriculture sector have overtaken the implementation of the private-public project and resulted in more delays.
One of the roadblocks, Navarro said, is the enactment of Republic Act (RA) 11203, which effectively reduced the role of the National Food Authority (NFA) to a buffer-stocking agency.
The NFA is one of the important partners of the PhilMaize in implementing the project as it would be in charge of marketing RCB, he said. However, the rice trade liberalization law disallowed the NFA from market participation.
The food agency’s role is crucial as this would guarantee to the Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank), where PhilMaize is seeking a P1-billion loan, that the project will be profitable and that the group can pay the bank.
Navarro said the replacement of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol, one of the key proponents of the project, will also contribute to the delay in its implementation.
“Basically, we are back to the drawing board. We will seek Secretary [William D.] Dar’s support for this project as this seeks to stabilize the country’s rice supply,” he told the BusinessMirror in an interview.
The RCB project, endorsed by no less than President Duterte in December 2017, seeks to wipe out the country’s rice-supply shortfall by promoting the consumption of the rice-corn mix.
PhilMaize is seeking a P1-billion loan from the LandBank for the construction of two corn-processing centers for the RCB project. However, the group did not receive feedback from the LandBank until Cecilia C. Borromeo replaced former CEO Alex V. Buenaventura.
The LandBank is asking PhilMaize to get assurance from the DA and the NFA that they would serve as guarantors for the project to ensure its viability and profitability.
Navarro disclosed that the group recently met with NFA officials, led by its Administrator Judy Carol Dansal, to review their memorandum of agreement (MOA) on the RCB project.
He said the responsibilities of the NFA under the MOA, such as marketing, are no longer feasible due to the agency’s new mandate.
Navarro added that his group is looking into how they can move the project forward. “With the [appointment] of Secretary Dar, we will probably be able to solve some problems.”
This is not the first time the RCB project was delayed. In May last year, the BusinessMirror reported that the DA could not transfer government funds to PhilMaize to kick-start the project.
The DA said it had to ensure the legality of the fund transfer so that it will not be flagged by the Commission on Audit. The agency promised to set aside P50 million for the construction of a processing facility.
The government targets to sell at least 500,000 metric tons of corn grits this year through the RCB project and 1 million metric tons next year.