• Agri trade’s ‘Napoles’ denies charges

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    Leah Cruz, the trader tagged as the “Janet Lim-Napoles” of the Department of Agriculture (DA), has dismissed claims that her group the
    Vegetable Importers, Exporters and Vendors Association of the Philippines (VIEVA) has a monopoly over the importation of garlic and onion.

    “Contrary to media reports, VIEVA Phils. is not Leah M. Cruz alone. It is an association of 20 importer companies, eight exporters, 200 vendors and 100 affiliated farmers’ cooperatives and associations,” Cruz said in her position paper.

    She stressed that VIEVA Phils., as an organization, was granted importation permits by the DA-Bureau of Plant Industry just like other vegetable importers.

    Cruz issued the position paper after Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. of Dasmariñas City called on the House committee on good government and public accountability to probe accusations of monopoly in the importation of garlic and onions through dummy firms.

    Barzaga also accused Cruz of benefitting from the “blessings” of the DA-BPI, allowing her to allegedly monopolize the trade through dummy companies incorporated by her drivers, clerks and house helpers.

    The lawmaker claimed that she was able to amass at least P200 million through allegedly fraudulent means.

    Cruz denied the accusations, saying that unlike other importers, VIEVA’s importer-members share with farmers’ groups the benefits of selling, distributing and marketing of agricultural products—both locally produced or imported.

    “VIEVA importer-members, aside from sharing with small farmers the marketing side of its business, also provides technical assistance to its farmers-partners to ensure the continuity of local food supply,” she said.

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