DA sets sights on PH rice cartel

Posted at Feb 13 2013 02:47 PM | Updated as of Feb 13 2013 10:47 PM

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MANILA - Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala on Wednesday said he is ready to run after and punish officials found guilty of backing rice smuggling operations.

This is after the Senate recommended the filing of charges for violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act against former National Food Authority (NFA) head Lito Banayo and his former chief of staff lawyer Gilbert Lauengco, a member of the NFA’s special bids and awards committee.

"Dalawa po yung hakbang na gagawin namin: itong mga nakikipagkuntsaba kung totoo ay dapat naman po talagang ma-blacklist. Pero yung mismong aming hawak na tauhan na palagay po natin ay gumawa ng kapabayaan ay siguro po bibigyan namin ng kaukulan parusa," Alcala said in a radio DZMM interview.

The agriculture chief said some officials could be accused of negligence or having a direct involvement in rice smuggling operations at Subic Bay Freeport Zone and Legazpi, Albay.

He said the department is also studying the possible abolition of the "Farmers as Importers Program" after it was linked to the illegal importation of rice in the country.

Alcala said he expects rice smuggling to be eliminated once the Philippines becomes rice self-sufficient.

"Mareresolbahan natin ngayon po kasi halos supisyente na tayo. And if ever na meron tayong iimportantahin, is only government to government na lang po starting this year," he said

"Kasi next year po naman, ina-anticipate po natin na wala na po tayong importasyon talaga, zero imporation na po tayo."

Radio DZMM, February 13, 2013