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Call for Agri chief’s ouster pressed

A party-list lawmaker on Sunday demanded the resignation of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala’s resignation for his alleged failure to meet the government’s rice self-sufficiency target by 2.5 million metric tons for 2013. Rep. Carlos Zarata of Bayan Muna said that the resignation “is an option that Alcala can explore.” “Its about time he gave up his post as  to whoever is competent enough to lead his department,”  Zarate added. Zarate’s statement was in support of the call of lawyer Argee Guevarra who also clamored for Alcala’s ouster after the House of Representatives found out in a public hearing that the country is more than 2.5 million metric tons (MT) short  of its 2013 rice production targets and 500,000 MT short of rice stocks to feed the nation for the rest of the year. Guevarra said that the inquiry’ revelations were an “embarrassment” to President Benigno Aquino III who made a pronouncement during his last State of the National Address (SONA) in July that the country was “on target” with its rice self-sufficiency roadmap. “It was an embarrassment caused by an Agriculture Secretary who has failed to deliver on his promises to the President.” Guevarra, who first exposed alleged anomalies in the DA and NFA’s April importation transactions, said. “Worse, Alcala has tried to cover up his failings by feeding the President with misleading numbers and by blaming unnamed groups for the shortcomings of his agency,” Guevarra added. “Heads have rolled for so much less. Alcala should do the honorable thing. He should resign,” he pointed out. Agriculture officials at the joint inquiry of the House Committee on Agriculture and Special Committee on Food Security earlier admitted that the DA will not be able to meet its 2013 rice self-sufficiency targets despite assurances by Alacala in March this year that “the government is on track in its goal of self-sufficiency in rice by 2013.” Asked point blank by Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano on  whether the country would be rice self-sufficient in 2013, Assistant Secretary Romeo Recide, Director of the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), replied, “the answer is no.”
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