Never Again to Rice Import Kickbacks

Open public bidding urged

Ilocos Norte Rep. Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. today warned that another anomaly is in the offing after President Arroyo ordered the importation of more rice to make up for the huge losses the agriculture sector suffered from two powerful typhoons that hit the country recently.

Marcos said the President’s order serves as a “blanket authority” for Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap who has yet to come clean on the recent rice importation deal with Vietnam , which according to reports was hugely overpriced.

“How are we going to trust the agriculture department if it is the same agency involved in a kickback scandal involving rice imports from Vietnam? Secretary Yap should first make a clean breast of it,” Marcos said.

Marcos was referring to the kickback-laden rice importation contract entered into by the Department of Agriculture (DA) with Vietnam this year, which according to international news agency Reuters was overpriced by 45 percent.

Reuters claimed Vietnam’s five percent broken rice is quoted at $380 to $460 per metric ton on a freight on board basis where National Food Authority (NFA) paid for at $549.5 per metric ton cost in freight or a total of $825 million (roughly P39.7 billion) for the 1.5 million metric tons, from Vietnam ’s largest rice exporter Vietnam Southern Food Corp. Moreover, traders said the freight cost should be between $25 and $35 per metric ton or lower.

“We should not allow crooked officials at the DA and NFA to rake in billions in kickbacks from rice importation again,” Marcos said, as he underscored the need for the government to observe formal bidding procedures in purchasing rice from other countries.

Marcos said the DA should form a Special Bids and Awards Committee to ensure that the rice importation contract is awarded to the lowest bidder.

He also suggested that the bidding process be covered by the media so the public will be informed about the background of the bidders.

“Since the Philippines is the largest rice importer in the world, Filipinos are entitled to know the price and quality of rice they will eat,” Marcos pointed out.

“The public has the right to information as to how public funds are being sent and whether such funds are being properly spent,” he added.

The DA had revealed that tropical storms “Ondoy” and “Pepeng” damaged crops worth over P6 billion. The rice sector again sustained the biggest damage from the two typhoons at P4.2 billion.

The country is looking to import more rice to avoid a potential supply shortage in the first half of 2010, after typhoons hit many rice-producing areas.

So far, the Philippines has imported 1.775 million tons of milled rice in 2009, versus a record 2.3 million tons last year which helped drive grain prices to all-time highs. (30)

Bidding kailangang bukas sa taumbayan, NGOs at media

TONGPATS’ SA RICE IMPORTATION

WAG PALUSUTIN! – BONGBONG

Kailangang bantayang mabuti ng taumbayan partikular ang media kabilang na ang mga grupo ng Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) sa planong importasyon ng Department of Agriculture (DA) ng tone-toneladang bigas na magkakahalaga ng milyon-milyong piso.

Ito ang panawagan ngayon ni Rep. Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. ng Ilocos Norte matapos na ipag-utos ni Pangulong Gloria Macapagal Arroyo kay Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap na kaagad na magsagawa ng rice importation dahil sa malubhang pinsalang idinulot ng bagyong Ondoy at Pepeng sa sektor ng agrikultura.

Ayon kay Marcos, ang kautusan ay maituturing na isang ‘blanket authority’ para kay Secretary Yap na hanggang sa ngayon ay kailangan pa ring magpaliwanag sa akusasyon na may ‘tongpats’ ang nakaraang rice importation mula sa Vietnam.

“Paano ka magtitiwala sa DA kung ito mismo ay inaakusahang may bilyong pisong ‘tongpats’ sa nakaraang rice importation mula sa Vietnam,” tanong ni Marcos.

Ibinunyag ng international news agency na Reuters kamakailan na ang biniling bigas ng DA mula sa Vietnam ay may patong na 45 porsyento sa halaga nito. Batay sa report, P5.7 bilyon hanggang P13.1 bilyon ang kinita sa ‘tongpats’ ng mga taong malapit sa Malacanang.

Kaugnay nito, nanawagan si Marcos na kailangang magbuo ng Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) ang DA upang ang halaga at bilang ng sako ng bigas na aangkatin ay lalung mabusisi at mapatunayang higit na mas mababa ito kumpara sa ibang presyo sa international market.

“Ang Pilipinas ang pinakamalaking rice importer sa buong mundo kung kaya’t mahalagang malaman ng taumbayan kung magkano at anong klaseng bigas ang kanilang kakainin. Hindi tayo makapapayag na basta na lamang bibili sila ng bigas pero hindi natin alam ang detalye,” pahayag ni Marcos.

Batay sa datos ng DA, lalagpas sa P6 billion ang pinsalang idinulot ng bagyong Ondoy at Pepeng sa agrikultura. Karamihan ng napinsalang panananim ay ang palay na umaabot sa mahigit sa P4.2 billion.

Kaugnay nito, binalaan ni Marcos si Yap na maging transparent ang kanyang tanggapan lalu na sa usapin ng rice importation dahil malamang na magdulot ito ng kaguluhan kung ang bigas na kanilang ipagbibili sa lokal na merkado ay mataas ang presyo.

“Malaking gulo ‘yan kung mataas ang presyo ng bigas na kanilang ipagbibili sa taumbayan. Kaya nga para sa akin, piliin nila ang magandang bigas at presyong mababa kung aangkat sila ng bigas sa ibang bansa,” dagdag pa ni Marcos. (30)

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