Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol over the weekend said he has fired a quarantine officer of the Bureau of Plant Industry in Davao City over alleged extortion complaints from small banana exporters.
Piñol said that BPI quarantine officer as Andres Alemania, along with his people, has demanded “fees” for every container van passing through Sasa Port. The BPI is an agency under the Department of Agriculture (DA).
“Some people are either slow learners or simply dumb,” Piñol said, adding that he immediately directed BPI acting director Vivencio Mamaril to issue a relief order.
On Monday, Piñol said that he will issue another directive to relieve the whole BPI Quarantine Service staff in Sasa Port down to the janitor and replace them with a fresh group of quarantine officers.
“There will be due process,” the DA chief said, saying that he will dispatch graft investigators to validate the charges.
The official also said that the investigators, belonging to a new unit he personally organized in the DA, will to proceed to the Sasa Port and interview the over 200 Cavendish banana exporters who have reportedly been paying the “special fees” to Alemania.
“The going rate, according to sources I talked with is P8,000 per container or P40,000 per exporter per transaction,” he said, noting that the transaction has been “going on for so many years now.”
“Considering that there are over 200 exporters, not to mention the huge players like Dole Philippines, Sumifru, Tadeco, Uni-Frutti and others, I can just imagine how much these people, granting that the charges are true, have been raking in all these years,” he said.
Piñol, however, did not specifically say whether the extortion also targeted the big banana growers.
He also said that they will conduct lifestyle checks against the BPI quarantine officers. If charges were validated, he said that he will officially ask the Office of the Ombudsman to start an official investigation and recommend the filing of graft charges.
“President [Rodrigo] Duterte’s vow to rid government of corrupt officials is not just cheap talk. It will be done. Learn, adapt, adjust or get fired,” Piñol reminded DA personnel.