Malacañang on Thursday dared Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile to show proof that smuggling of rice, meat and oil—rampant in the past administration—was still the norm under the Aquino administration.
“If Senate President Enrile knew anything about smugglers and [he has] evidence, he should tell us, and this administration will not hesitate to promptly order an investigation,” said presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda in a phone interview.
“That’s what a ‘straight path’ is. He should identify these crooks since we, too, want Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile to be happy,” added Lacierda, apparently teasing Enrile whose campaign catchphrase when he sought reelection in 2010 was “Gusto ko happy ka” (I want you to be happy).
Lacierda was reacting to Enrile’s tirades against Aquino’s “straight path” agenda on Wednesday in Bohol province, where the Senate chief was campaigning for his son, Cagayan Rep. Juan Ponce “Jack” Enrile Jr.
The younger Enrile is running on the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) senatorial slate.
“If the administration is really pursuing a straight path, why are they allowing the problem of smuggling of rice, meat and oil to worsen in the entire country?” asked Enrile at a campaign sortie in Tagbilaran City.
“Instead of helping the farmers, the foreigners are being taken care of by [administration officials],” said Enrile, citing the case of a Thailand company that was apparently given preferential treatment by the Board of Investments (BOI).
Enrile raised the same smuggling charge against the Aquino administration during the proclamation of the UNA senatorial candidates in Cebu City on Tuesday, where he, Vice President Jejomar Binay and former President Joseph Estrada were present.
Enrile was apparently referring to the Thai conglomerate, Charoen Pokphand Foods (CP Foods), which was granted a pioneering investment status by the BOI.
This will allow CP Foods to enjoy a six-year tax holiday along with import incentives for corn and other raw feed materials.
“The BOI move favoring CP Foods undermines our sovereignty and food security. It will also result in the loss of employment for millions of Filipinos as the agricultural sector employs 33 percent of the entire Philippine labor force,” said a resolution signed by major stakeholders in the country’s agriculture sector.
The stakeholders have formed a united front to denounce the smuggling of meat and other agricultural products, and what they called “unlawful entry” into the local market of the Thai food company.
The resolution was adopted during the 6th Multisectoral Agriculture Summit in Metro Manila last month. It was attended by national agricultural leaders, farmers and representatives of allied industries.
The summit discussed the impact of CP Foods on food production and retail, and other government policies that would hurt local food producers.