Last January 11, 2021 during their 2nd regular session, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan passed Resolution No. 020-2021, co-sponsored by PBMs Lorenzo Templonuevo, Jr., Arnel Turado and Giovanni Balmadrid, earnestly requesting the Catanduanes Contractors Association (CCA) to assist the National Food Authority (NFA) in the immediate disposition of typhoon-damaged rice stocks at the NFA warehouse.
The honorable provincial board members had heard from NFA executives during a meeting of the Committee on Agriculture a week earlier that only 2,700 bags out of the total 8,000 bags of rice damaged by recent typhoons have been disposed, or to say it straight, buried in a deep enough pit.
“(T)he remaining bulk of damage-rice (sic) if not immediately dispose (sic) of can cause injury to the health and brought discomfort (sic) to the community surrounding the warehouse,” the SP stated.
As the provincial government has limited resources to address the matter, it said, there is no other recourse but to seek the benevolence of the “Department of Public Works and Highways, Catanduanes Engineering District.”
The grammatical errors and apparent cut-and-paste mistake aside, the SP surely deserves the gratitude of the public, especially those living in the vicinity of the NFA warehouse who have suffered the almost unbearable stink of decaying rice for nearly two months now.
How soon the contractors, or the few of them who would be willing to shoulder the cost of retrieving and burying the rotting rice, is another matter.
This warehouse collapse has happened before during super typhoon Reming in 2006 and 14 years is long enough for NFA executives to be able to forget the lessons the storm left behind.
It would take perhaps another 15 years for another “Rolly” to slam squarely into Virac, but the agency should be able to correct or fine-tune its policy regarding damaged rice at its warehouses for the benefit of the public.
Just days after the Nov. 1, 2020 howler, the Tribune passed by the NFA and took a picture of the destroyed warehouse, beneath which lay exposed to the weather at least three piles of rice bags at least 10 deep. A fourth of the warehouse was occupied by the agency’s service cars, along with several privately-owned SUVs.
An employee at the time said that there were about 4,000 bags, with some of them, probably hundreds, in the inner portion of the piles, still dry and suitable for eating.
Assuming there were at least a thousand still fit for cooking, the agency, with the help of local government units, could have removed the wet rice and retrieved the undamaged bags for distribution to typhoon victims.
The problem was, the local NFA office could not do anything about it, not one bit. The policy regarding its assets damaged by typhoons, it appears, is that NFA can dispose of the goods or assets only after an inspection and inventory has been conducted by the agency’s resident auditor.
Considering that there were no ferry trips for at least a week along with another typhoon roaring by on Nov. 11, there was no way the COA resident auditor could have arrived two or three days after Rolly even if he really wanted to.
Perhaps, given that low-key preparations for next year’s elections have begun, the honorable board members could again pass a resolution, this time asking the NFA to allow inspection of typhoon-damaged rice by an auditor from the COA provincial office the next time its warehouse’s roof is blown away.
And while they’re at it, the SP could also petition the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) to finally allow couples or families to sit together in churches and restaurants.
The sheer stupidity of enforcing physical distancing between husband and wife or between family members inside these two public places, after they traveled together on board their own vehicles, gives the discerning public recurring headaches no vaccine would be able to cure.