Another plunder complaint was filed on Wednesday against Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala with the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with “anomalous” rice imports.
The Metro Manila Vendors’ Association claimed that Alcala and National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator Orlan Calayag amassed P1.08 billion from the “massive” importation of rice from Vietnam.
“This latest importation reeks of corruption and is clearly anomalous,” the vendors asserted, saying it was overpriced by at least $30 per MT.
“There is absolutely no justification to import rice at a time when the country has abundant supply of it,” they said, noting that the deal was struck in summer when rice production was at its peak.
The group, represented by its President Flora Santos, hit Alcala for contradicting his promise of rice self-sufficiency by 2013.
“Alcala’s media statements were meant only to lull the public into believing that the tuwid na daan [straight path]policy being espoused by the [Aquino] administration would also include graft-ridden NFA,” the 13-page complaint read.
The lifting of the quantitative restrictions on rice importation by June 30, 2012 contained in the Department of Agriculture’s rice self-sufficiency 2011 to 2016 roadmap should have already let the private sector take charge of importation, the group said.
It added that Alcala and Calayag entered into the “midnight deal” because the rice importation was made just a few days before President Benigno Aquino 3rd appointed former senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan as Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agriculture Modernization.
The group claimed that the two officials sealed the deal to import 800,000 metric tons (MT) of rice from Vietnam in April and that the volume of rice to be imported was more than the government’s quota of 187,000 MT. Vietnam Southern Food Corp. and Vietnam Northern Food Corp. won the contract.
Emerson Palad, undersecretary and spokesman f the Department of Agriculture, said Alcala is yet to be informed about the latest plunder case filed against him.
With James Konstantin Galvez