• Farmers’ groups hit DA over new permits


    A coalition of farmers’ cooperatives over the weekend lambasted the Department of Agriculture (DA) for alleged irregularities in the issuance of new Sanitary Phytosanitary (SPS) permits.

    Manny Ramirez, president of the National Federation of Farmers’ Cooperatives (NFFC), backed importers who condemned the issuance of SPS clearances to favored traders.

    The irregularities were allegedly engineered by Agriculture Undersecretaries Ariel Cayanan and Franciso Villano Jr.

    Villano is the chief of staff of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol.

    “Usec. Cayanan has the sole and exclusive discretion in the approval of new SPS clearance applications,” Ramirez said.

    “Without passing through his office and his ‘valuable signature’ being affixed, no SPS application can be transmitted back to the Bureau of Animal Industry, Bureau of Plant Industry and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resource for posting as ‘approved’ to be utilized by the importers,” he added.

    Persistent complaints
    The issue emerged after importers observed that the approval of their SPS import clearance applications were being deferred or withheld for a prolonged period of time pending evaluation.

    Ramirez said NFFC has also received persistent complaints from members that the approval of their applications took much longer.

    He also claimed that Cayanan and his supposed cohorts facilitated the expeditious approval of numerous SPS Import Clearance applications of 37 “blacklisted companies.”

    “Indeed, these unscrupulous importers that were included in the blacklist were allowed to operate despite the fact that sanctions and penalties for their previous violations are not yet resolved,” Ramirez said.

    “The significant increase in the number of approved SPS Import Clearances from January 17, 2017 to date can be directly attributed to the illegal operation of the blacklisted importers in addition to the surge in the number of new applications by the so-called “Greenlane Importers”, he added.

    The DA had earlier suspended the issuance of SPS clearances or import permits for revalidation in line with its efforts to weed out unscrupulous traders.

    Mere allegations
    In a telephone interview with The Manila Times, Cayanan vehemently denied the accusations, saying: “It (the accusations) will remain as allegations and speculations unless they can provide evidence.”

    “Even a fishball vendor can make allegations. It is unfair and unfounded,” Cayanan said.

    “I will assure you that the President, the Office of the Secretary and my office will not tolerate such action,” Cayanan said. “If they have allegations and complaints, they could easily file a report to our office and it will be acted upon immediately,” he added.

    He said he would summon on Monday the heads of regulatory agencies under the DA and ask for the list of blacklisted companies.

    “I will be looking at both sides of the boat. I will make them explain if ever why there are unscrupulous companies recommended for approval. But if the allegations are wrong, then my people also deserve the courtesy and I will also ask an apology from those who are accusing us of wrong doing,” he said.

    Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol challenged Ramirez and other accusers to come forward and present evidence, saying that he is ready to file charges against them if the allegations were untrue.

    “If there is proof, my appeal is come forward and present evidence, then we will act on it accordingly,” Piñol said.


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