MANILA — A lawmaker expects a House panel investigating last year's skyrocketing prices of onions to recommend charges against the country's so-called "sibuyas queen".
According to Marikina City 2nd District Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo, the House Committee on Agriculture and Food will "most likely" recommend filing cases before the Philippine Competition Commission against the person who allegedly operates the biggest onion cartel in the country.
"After 9 hearings, we believed we found sufficient evidence to show that the group of Leah Cruz and related entities... is operating as the onion cartel and could be behind surge of onion prices in 2022," she told ANC's "Rundown" Friday.
At a hearing of the House committee on agriculture and food in February, Cruz denied all claims of her alleged involvement in the smuggling of the onions as "false, baseless and founded".
Quimbo said the hearings showed Cruz and her accomplices were allegedly behind the recent spike in onion prices by controlling the local and imported supplies of the commodity.
She said 3 companies linked to Cruz controlled 70 percent of imported yellow onion.
"They control first imports and when you do that, you’re actually able to use that as bargaining leverage against farmers," she said.
"So, you can say, if my imported onions are so cheap, you better sell those to me cheap because wala yang pupuntahan.
"By having a control of that imported onions, as well as the local produce, then you have everything, all of those in your own cold storages, and in addition, you have logistics, meaning you have your trucking business, then because of that, it's easy for you to coordinate the releases to various retail outlets," she added.
Late last year, prices of onions surged to as high as P700 per kilo, which prompted the government to approve importation to boost the supply and lower the prices.