Alcala glad ‘David Tan’ has surfaced to answer rice smuggling raps
MANILA, Philippines—Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala called it a “blessing” that the suspected rice smuggler known by the name of David Tan has finally surfaced. “It’s a blessing that what we have been saying all along about a ‘David Tan’ controlling rice smuggling in the country is true,” said Alcala.
Rosendo So, president of the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag) and Abono party-list founder, said: “We look forward to seeing Davidson “David Tan” Bangayan next week, January 22. The Senate has invited David Tan through the DOJ (Department of Justice),” said So.
“Rice traders, cooperatives and rice millers know him, he is the one selling smuggled rice. Let’s just wait when they face him in the hearing,” said So.
While Bangayan profusely denied being enmeshed in rice smuggling when he appeared at the National Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday, both Alcala and So noted that Tan’s lawyer, Benito Salazar, was the same counsel of two rice importers —Starcraft International Trading Corp. and Silent Royalty Marketing—that have sued the Bureau of Customs (BOC) for putting on hold the release of P21 million worth of rice shipments at the Davao port for lack of an import permit.
“He (Bangayan) was accompanied by his lawyer Benito Salazar. He is probably the same Benito Salazar representing Starcraft and Silent Royalty,” said So.
In a phone interview, Alcala said that Salazar has been doing the media rounds to villify the Department of Agrciulture and National Food Authority and force it to liberalize the importation of rice.
Alcala said: “He (Salazar) is the same lawyer who is running after us (the DA and NFA) because we stopped his clients’ rice imports.”
Salazar earlier argued that his clients would willingly pay the 50 percent duty on its rice imports but that the World Trade Organization (WTO), which governed global trading rules between nations including the Philippines, has already lifted quantitative restrictions on imports.
But Alcala stressed that he was just upholding the rule of law as the 18-year-old Agriculture Tarrification Act or Republic Act 1878, which imposed import restrictions on farm products, has not yet been voided by Congress. For as long as RA 1878 is in effect, Salazar’s clients have to obtain permits from the NFA before shipping rice into the country or else these shipments would be considered as smuggled and seized upon arrival, according to Alcala.
“They have to respect the law. These import restrictions are meant to protect our farmers. Are we for our farmers or foreign farmers? We have to protect our rice farmers because it is our goal to have self-sufficiency in the most consumed staple of Filipinos,” said Alcala.
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