Pangilinan, CIDG probe repacking ‘collusion’
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Philippines—The possible collusion of traders, cooperatives and provincial officials of the National Food Authority (NFA) is being investigated after the discovery of 1,200 sacks of NFA rice being repacked in a warehouse in Marilao town, Bulacan province, on Thursday, according to presidential adviser Kiko Pangilinan.
“We need to look into the angle of collusion of parties in the transaction,” Pangilinan, presidential adviser on food security and agricultural modernization, told the Inquirer in a phone interview on Friday.
In the Marilao warehouse, personnel of the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) found the workers transferring the contents of NFA bags to commercial sacks.
Pangilinan said NFA national officials were talking to NFA directors in Pampanga and Bulacan provinces to check the origin of the rice stocks that were found in the Marilao warehouse.
Police also found two 10-wheel trucks in the warehouse compound where sacks of NFA rice were being loaded.
Pangilinan said the warehouse, which has since been padlocked, contained at least 5,000 sacks of rice, including the 1,200 sacks of NFA rice that were being repacked.
Criminal case filed
The CIDG filed a criminal case for violation of Republic Act No. 7581, or the Price Act, against Roberto and Regina Paulenco, owners of licensed retailing company Jomarro, and 20 workers. The case was filed in the prosecutor’s office at the City of Malolos in Bulacan.
Price manipulation carries a penalty of five to 15 years in jail and a fine of up to P2 million.
The Paulencos were not in the warehouse during the raid, said Chief Insp. Reynaldo Magdaluyo, CIDG chief in Bulacan.
Elvira Obana, NFA-Pampanga director, said Jomarro did not buy rice from the agency.
“We released the FAIR (Farmers’ Incentive Rice Purchase Program) allocation to a farmer’s cooperative at a total of 1,500 bags,” she said, stressing that these were locally produced rice bought by the agency at P17 per kg.
Under the FAIR, farmers who sell palay (paddy) to the NFA are given rice allocations, equivalent to 25 percent of what they sold to the agency, as incentive.
The farmers, in turn, can sell these allocations to members of their cooperative or they can offer these for retail, provided they are licensed retailers.
When asked, Obana said she was still verifying the name of the cooperative that availed itself of the FAIR allocation.
Obana allayed fears that the incident would led to a rice shortage in Pampanga. She said the NFA-Pampanga warehouse had almost 80,000 bags of rice as of Thursday.
“The unloading of stocks from a warehouse in Subic [Bay Freeport] is going on. Pampanga has an allotment of 250,000 bags for the lean months,” she said.
In the Ilocos region, the NFA received 120,000 more bags of imported rice from Vietnam to boost its stocks for the lean months.
In a statement, Carlito Co, NFA-Ilocos manager, said the imported rice shipment, which arrived last week at Poro Port in San Fernando City, La Union province, was part of the 800,000 metric tons of imported rice that the government bid out early this year.
Co said the region was allocated 1.4 million bags, which would be distributed to Pangasinan, La Union, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte provinces.–Reports from Tonette Orejas and Carmela Reyes-Estrope, Inquirer Central Luzon, and Yolanda Sotelo, Inquirer Northern Luzon
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