Quimbo certain controversial agri trader is still ‘undisputed onion queen’
MANILA, Philippines — Marikina 2nd District Rep. Stella Quimbo is convinced that a controversial agriculture trader remains the “undisputed sibuyas (onion) queen.”
This, as she noted that hearings of the House of Representatives on the alleged hoarding and overpricing of onions in the country led to corporations linked to Phil Vieva Corporation founder Lilia “Leah” Cruz.
In a briefing on Thursday, Quimbo explained that Cruz is still in control of the country’s onion cartel even if the businesswoman maintains she already left the onion industry.
Quimbo said she came to this conclusion after analyzing documents obtained during the course of nine public hearings conducted by the House committee on agriculture and food.
“A careful scrutiny of numerous public documents including General Information Sheets, registries of the Bureau of Plant Industry and the Department of Trade and Industry; the income statements submitted to the SEC and the Committee, the inventory reports submitted to the Committee led me to the conclusion na buhay na buhay ang onion cartel sa ating bansa (the onion cartel is very much alive in our country),” she said.
“Si Leah Cruz ay ang reigning undisputed sibuyas queen. Madalas niyang sinasabi na tinalikuran na n’ya ang industrya, na hindi na s’ya nag-iimport ng sibuyas, na farming at trucking na lamang ang ginagawa niya sa industriya ng sibuyas. Hindi ito totoo base sa mga dokumento,” she added.
(Leah Cruz is the reigning undisputed onion queen. She often says that she has given up on the industry, that she no longer imports onions, that she only does farming and trucking in the onion industry. This is not true based on the documents.)
Quimbo further explained that although Cruz was already blacklisted by the Department of Agriculture (DA), the trader was able to operate through Phil Vieva. Cruz is the majority owner of the corporation, the lawmaker noted.
Quimbo added that Phil Vieva covers every single part of the onion industry – from farming, trading, cold storage, and trucking – by having different companies operate as partners.
“Ang PhilVIEVA ay isang fully vertically integrated corporation: ibig sabihin, sakop nito ang halos lahat ng operations sa onion industry, mula farming (Leah Cruz), trading (Yom Trading, La Reina), cold storage (Tian Long), at trucking (Golden Shine). Ika nga, mula ulo hanggang paa, involved sila sa onion industry,” she said.
(PhilVIEVA is a fully vertically integrated corporation: that is, it covers almost all operations in the onion industry, from farming [Leah Cruz], trading [Yom Trading, La Reina], cold storage [Tian Long], and trucking [Golden Shine]. In other words, from head to toe, they are involved in the onion industry.)
“Kaduda-duda ang existence ng PhilVIEVA. Bigatin ang mga miyembro ng PhilVIEVA, pero wala silang joint operations. Halos wala daw silang joint income. Hindi nga consistent ang statements nila tungkol sa purpose ng business ng corporation. Pero sila ay customer ng isa’t isa. At investor din sila ng isa’t isa. Makikita natin ang pagkakaugnay nila sa isang Onion Matrix,” Quimbo added.
(The existence of PhilVIEVA is questionable. PhilVIEVA has big-time members, but they do not have joint operations. They said they have almost no joint income. Their statements about the business purpose of the corporation are not consistent. But they are each other’s customers. And they are also investors of each other. We can see their relationship in an Onion Matrix.)
The legislator vowed to release a copy of the matrix that she came up with soon.
Cruz has been persistently tagged as the “sibuyas (onion) queen” or the person supposedly responsible for the cartel in the country’s onion industry. But in one of the House panel’s hearings, she denied the accusations, saying that the claims against her are “false, baseless and unfounded.”
“Time and again, I have been implicated in the smuggling of onions and garlic yet time after time, my faceless accusers have yet to prove their allegations,” she said last February 8.
Quimbo has maintained several times that a cartel is behind the sharp rise in the prices of onions in the country which, at one point, were sold from P400 to P700 a kilo.
She previously scolded government offices like the Bureau of Plant Industry for not being aware of the smuggling activities and for failing to inform the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) of suspicions about the link between cartels and missing onions.
Last May 11, Quimbo said she is sure that connivance between groups is the reason for the skyrocketing prices of onions – after officials from cold storage companies Tian Long Trading and Yom Trading Corporation were found to be shareholders of Phil Vieva Corporation.