Graft case vs PPA execs sought over ‘rice smuggling’ at ports
MANILA, Philippines — An anti-corruption group has asked the Office of the Ombudsman to prosecute Philippine Ports Authority officials for the alleged rampant smuggling of rice at private transhipment terminals in the Port of of Manila.
In a four-page complaint-affidavit filed last Nov. 26, Benjamin Peralta, secretary general of the Filipino Alliance for Transparency and Empowerment (FATE), accused PPA officials led by general manager Juan Sta. Ana and assistant general manager for operations Raul Santos of violating Section 3 of Republic Act 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and Section 5(a) of RA 6713 of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
FATE based its complaint on media reports of smuggling activities at the Harbour Centre Port Terminal Inc. (HCPTI), which is under PPA supervision and whose permit to operate was issued by the government agency.
Peralta said FATE received information that Vina Foods Inc., a rice supplier from Vietnam, had shipped to Manila, via MV Exelixis, 506,000 bags through the HCPTI and the South Harbor Center, which were the only transhipment hubs allowed by the government.
FATE recalled that last October, 3,000 bags of rice could not be accounted for and only 503,859 bags were received by the National Food Authority (NFA). The missing bags were supposed to have been kept in the HCPTI warehouse.
A consumer group has also asked the Ombudsman to probe the NFA and the HCPTI for the alleged illegal storage of the imported rice.
Peralta lamented that calls by concerned groups on the PPA and other government agencies to investigate reports of rice smuggling and other illegal activities in the HCPTI and other ports nationwide, “fell on deaf ears” due to a “possible conspiracy” between government agencies and private firms.
He said rice smuggling has caused great injury to the government and to the people, particularly farmers and consumers.
The NFA earlier cleared HCPTI of any involvement in the alleged smuggling or hoarding.
In a statement, NFA administrator Renan Dalisay said initial investigation showed HCPTI was only being used as a transhipment point of the NFA imported rice from the vessel to the trucks before their deliverty to the NFA-designated warehouses.
Dalisay said the HCPTI was contracted by the Golden Orient Ship Management and Agencies Inc., the cargo handler hired locally by Vina Foods. Under the government-to-government rice importation scheme, he added, the supplier would assume all costs such as freight, insurance, delivery and warehousing.
“This means that the NFA assumes legal ownership of the stock only when these are finally delivered at the NFA designated warehouse. Before its arrival at the designated place, it is still under ownership of the supplier,” he explained.
He said no bag of rice was missing as the NFA accepted only good quality stocks in accordance with the specifications.
The NFA ordered rice from Vietnam last April, and set the delivery from May to August. SFM
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