Farmers' coops used as fronts in rice trading: De Lima

By David Dizon, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Jan 22 2014 02:05 PM | Updated as of Jan 23 2014 09:24 AM

MANILA - How does businessman Davidson Bangayan, allegedly smuggling "Goliath" David Tan, participate in rice importation even if he is not a registered rice trader?

A Senate hearing revealed Bangayan funds farmers' cooperatives to participate in the National Food Authority (NFA) bidding for rice import quotas.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said two witnesses revealed that Bangayan, also known as "DT," would use coordinators to approach farmers' groups and offer to pay for their license fees, bonds, document form fees and other requirements asked for by the NFA and the Bureau of Customs.

She said "DT" would also shoulder the airplane tickets and accommodations of representatives of the cooperatives whenever there is an NFA bidding.

The witnesses said the recruited cooperatives go to Bangayan's office in Dagat-Dagatan, Caloocan to get the prequalifying bid documents and bid offers prepared by Bangayan.

The cooperatives are given 10 pesos in commission for every bag of rice won during the bidding.

De Lima said one witness revealed that rice importations are sometimes misdeclared as hardware or construction materials. The witness said the importers also "recycle" import permits issued by the NFA if the permits are not duly stamped upon arrival of the shipments.

For his part, Bangayan again denied that he is smuggling king David Tan, saying he has never been involved in rice smuggling.

However, he confirmed that he has gone into joint ventures with some farmers' groups but said it is not illegal.

He said that aside from rice importation, he is also involved in metal trading and other commodities.

Bangayan confirmed that he participated in rice bidding through the Minimum Access Volume (MAV) method of the NFA, which gives farmers' organizations the privilege to import rice without being used by big rice importers.

"Kalakaran na kino-consolidate ang farmers' sectors. In 2012, hindi lang mga companies na yan ang nakakakuha ng import allocation," he said.

He also reasoned it is sometimes difficult to be accredited as a rice trader because of the NFA and Customs requirements.