Gov’t task force finds 20,000 sack of rice in warehouse
ILIGAN CITY — The Task Force on Rice Hoarding, composed of the National Food Authority (NFA) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), has padlocked three warehouses in the village of Palao here for alleged rice hoarding.
Two of the warehouses, which sat next to each other at the market area here, were found to be operating without a license from the NFA.
Lawyer Abdul Jamal Dimaporo, chief of the NBI Iligan District Office, said authorities found an estimated 20,000 sacks of rice during the raid on Tuesday stored in the first two warehouses owned by a certain Sonya Payan.
Dimaporo said the NFA has yet to determine the exact volume of the rice stored in the two warehouses, but the agency had already estimated it to reach 20,000 bags of rice with each bag containing 25 kilograms.
Some people had reported to the task force that the warehouses were full of sacks of rice.
“Upon the instruction of the President to look for hoarders (of rice), we saw these two warehouses,” Dimaporo said in an interview.
“We talked with the NFA, we joined forces, then checked if they were licensed,” he said.
“Yes, they have license for their store, but not for the two warehouses,” he said.
Payan, who owned the two warehouses, was reportedly in Cagayan de Oro City.
Sambatori Dimaporo, NFA provincial director in Lanao del Norte, said while Payan had legal documents for her rice business, she still had to answer for violating other NFA rules.
Aside from monitoring rice hoarding in the area, the agency was also monitoring prices in the market, said the NFA official.
He said team members go around every week to check on NFA rice retailers and distributors and the warehouses that were raided were not on the team’s list of accredited sellers.
“These have been undeclared,” said Dimaporo of the warehouses that were raided.
The owner of the establishment was not around when authorities arrived but workers introduced a Chinese national, identified as Yan Jianzhu, as the caretaker.
When asked by reporters for comment, he did not talk because, according to the workers, Yan did not understand any language except Mandarin.
Virgilio Guimbo, driver and delivery worker at Payan’s store, denied that the establishment was hoarding rice.
In fact, he said, the store had supplied rice to markets when parts of Zamboanga Sibugay ran out of supply last month.
“These bags of rice just arrived last week from Luzon,” he said.
“We did not hoard. This warehouse is open when there are customers who want to buy,” Guimbao said.
“We open this warehouse every day because we have customers,” he added.
“If the NFA and the NBI will close this down, we will lose our job,” said Guimbao.
“We did not know these warehouses were not declared to the NFA. We are only employees here,” he added.
The task force also discovered some 30,000 bags of suspected smuggled rice in a warehouse owned by a certain Johnny Tan in another part of Barangay Palao.
Authorities suspected it to be smuggled rice because of markings on the sacks showing these came from Malaysia.
“They will repack it to local rice,” NFA’s Dimaporo said.
He said signs of this were empty sacks and a sealing machine.
Dimaporo added that the task force found sacks without labels that meant these could be used to pass off the smuggled rice as local.
Tan said he did not know it was illegal to repack rice.
Payan and Tan faced charges of violating NFA rules.
The warehouses were padlocked and would remain so until the task force completes its investigation.
“They will be facing penalties,” NFA’s Dimaporo said of the warehouse owners.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.