DA official vows to follow law in releasing smuggled onions

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 05 2023 01:15 PM

Red onions are sold at the Paco Market in Manila on December 28, 2022. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
Red onions are sold at the Paco Market in Manila on December 28, 2022. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Importation possible but still band-aid solution: exec 

MANILA - The Department of Agriculture (DA) on Thursday maintained that they would follow the law in releasing smuggled onions to the market, saying these would also undergo sanitation. 

DA Deputy Spokesperson Rex Estoperez said they are still studying measures how to release these confiscated onions without circumventing laws. 

These are still illegal, he said, and the agency does not want to condone it.

"May nagsasabi na sayang naman pero ito ay dadaan sa ating mga laws, orders, na kung ito ay ilalabas natin, dapat dumaan sa ating mga —wala dapat tayong bina-violate na laws," Estoperez said during a televised briefing. 

Watch more News on iWantTFC

"Pangalawa, dumaan dito sa sanitary section. Yun lang naman ang kailangan natin. Ang isa pa, kumbaga iligal yan eh. Mukhang ito-tolerate natin, ilalabas sa merkado, mukhang hindi naman tama yun," he added. 

The prices of red onions still play around P400 to P600 per kilogram in some wet markets, days after the New Year celebration. 

President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. earlier sought the release of smuggled onions in the market to pull down the prices of the commodity. 

Agriculture officials are considering selling the confiscated onions to Kadiwa stores once these are confirmed safe for consumption. Some onions though have been found with chemical residue and E. coli

Meanwhile, Estoperez said importation of red onions is still possible if its farmgate price remains high. 

Estimates from the Bureau of Plant Industry showed farmers could harvest some 19,000 metric tons of red onions this season, while some fields continue to harvest the commodity. 

"Kung ganito ang sitwasyon, na ang farmgate price hindi pa rin bumababa, mukhang mapipilitan pa rin tayo, sabihin natin na nag-iingat tayo sa band-aid solution na pag-import," he said. 

"Hindi pa rin bumababa ang farmgate price. Nasa P300 pa rin... Ano gagawin ng DA? Kung hindi [matapos] ang pagtaas ng presyo na ito, ang gagawin na lang natin siguro is... 'yung short-term solution which is importation.

"Nag-iingat tayo gawin yan para maprotektahan, mabalanse natin... ang produksyon at ating pag-import," he added. 

His agency will assess in the coming months any interventions they fell short of and what they can still do to address the issue, he said.