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Solon seeks probe of palm oil imports by gov’t firm


11:29 PM February 2nd, 2013

By: Delfin T. Mallari Jr., February 2nd, 2013 11:29 PM

LUCENA CITY—House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez on Friday said he would ask Congress to look into the “anomalous” selling of palm-based cooking oil by a sequestered oil mill which is tasked with promoting coconut-based products.

“Its (palm oil) entry in the local market is anomalous because it directly competes with the main product of the oil mill company that is selling it,” Suarez said.

Suarez identified the palm-based cooking oil as Mitra Oil.

He said he would file on Monday a resolution calling for an investigation. “I will call for an immediate stop to this anomalous selling of palm oil by a government-owned coconut oil mill,” he said.

He said the matter was serious because it affects the lives of millions of coconut farmers. The importation of palm oil that competes with coconut-based coconut oil is detrimental to the country’s coconut farmers now reeling from a sharp drop in copra prices, he added.

Based on information printed on its plastic bottle, the palm-based cooking oil is produced by PT Smart Tbk in Indonesia and distributed in the country by San Pablo Manufacturing Corp. (SPMC).

SPMC is one of the six oil mills in the country acquired or established through the Coconut Industry Investment Fund  which formed part of the Coconut Consumers Stabilization Fund, also known as the coconut levy fund created in 1973 by Presidential Decree No.  276.

“What surprises me is that the importer of the palm oil is a company which is under the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA),” said Suarez, noting that the PCA’s mission was to promote and protect the Philippine coconut industry.

Suarez added that the price of the bottled palm oil in the market is cheaper for an equivalent volume of coconut cooking oil.

Citing information from the Bureau of Customs, Suarez said the palm-based cooking oil was able to enter the country duty-free. “The importer paid no importation tax. They only paid for the value-added tax,” he said.

Suarez said he would not have raised a howl if the importation of palm oil was a business venture by private companies.

“But its importation is being undertaken by an oil mill which is under the PCA. So, there’s a conflict,” he said.

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