'Document links DA, NFA chiefs to smuggling'

By Ding Cervantes, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jan 27 2014 07:36 AM | Updated as of Jan 27 2014 03:36 PM

ANGELES CITY – Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and administrator Oscar Calayag of the National Food Authority (NFA) are being implicated in rice smuggling.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said Alcala and Calayag made it appear that rice smugglers operate underground when, in fact, they had granted them import permits.

Willy Marbella, KMP deputy secretary-general, said the NFA could not have issued import permits to rice importers if they do not know the people behind them. Rice smugglers and their dummies likewise cannot secure an import permit if they don’t have connections to powerful and influential people like Alcala and Calayag, he said.

“Alcala and Calayag’s political role-playing is over. Calayag’s list shows that all along the NFA and the DA know the identity of rice smugglers because they are the ones who provided legal cover for them. Alcala and Calayag should now stop fooling the Filipino people.”

Marbella said the modus operandi of rice cartels and smugglers of using farmers’ cooperatives as dummies is an open secret inside the NFA.

“Obviously, this multimillion peso racket in the rice industry is happening with the blessings of the President for his favorite cabinet secretary,” he said.

The KMP furnished the media with a document that the NFA had submitted to the House of Representatives during the budget deliberations last year on the status of the importation of well-milled rice under the Country Specific Quota (CSQ) of 163,000 metric tons for the year 2013 undertaken by the private sector and farmers organizations.

Signed by Calayag, the two-page document states: “As of Sept. 3, 2013, we (NFA) were able to issue import permits (IP) to five entities out of 31 applicant importers.”

On top of the list of those import permits was Starcraft International Trading Corp. allegedly owned by Davidson Bangayan.

Also in the list were San Miguel MPC, Bold Bidder Marketing and General Mdse., Inter-Continental Grains International Trading, Inc., and Kwin Rice Trading.

The KMP said Bangayan was shown to be connected with Starcraft during the Senate committee on agriculture’s hearing last Wednesday.

“In the same hearing, Bold Bidder Marketing was mentioned by a Customs official for acquiring an injunction order from a court in Lemery, Batangas province even before the shipment ordered by the (Starcraft) company arrived,” KMP said.

The KMP said that “the farmers-as-importers program is nothing but a legal cover (for) rice cartels and smugglers to corner the big bulk of rice importation.”

“We demand that the DA and the NFA unmask the dummy farmer cooperatives in Calayag’s list and the rice cartels and smugglers behind them,” Marbella said.

The KMP said the current rice trade liberalization policy implemented by the government has turned the Philippines into a dumping ground of imported rice. – With Michael Punongbayan, Czeriza Valencia