A group advocating good governance has slammed officials of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) for their “disturbing silence” on reports of alleged rice smuggling at the Harbour Centre Port Terminal Inc. (HCPTI).
“Why are they allowing incidents of rice smuggling to happen right under their noses? The case of 3,000 missing bags of rice from Vietnam should have alarmed them. It’s all over the media,” Mario Alegre, national convenor of Alliance for Good Philippine Government, said over the weekend.
The group surmised there could be “conspiracy” among officials of the HCPTI, PPA and the National Food Authority to cover up the missing 3,000 bags of imported rice.
Alegre called on PPA executives Juan Sta. Ana and Raul Santos to investigate reports of rice smuggling and other illegal activities in all port communities nationwide.
“If the allegations were true, then PPA must not renew the license of HCPTI which expires on January 2017 or better yet, revoke or cancel it at once,” he said.
HCPTI is serving as one of the trans-shipment hubs of the government’s rice importation program although its permit is being questioned.
Reports said Vinafoods Inc, a rice supplier from Vietnam, had shipped to Manila via MV Exelixis 506,000 bags of rice.
The shipment was coursed HCPTI and the South Harbor Center as these were the only ones allowed by the government as trans-shipment hubs.
Since August of this year, Alegre said that about 3,000 bags have “gone missing,” noting that the NFA received only 503,859 bags of the supposed shipment.
The NFA ordered from Vietnam last April, for delivery during the May to August period.
Last week, a consumer formally lodged a graft complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman against the NFA and businessman Reghis Romero 2nd’s HCPTI for allegedly illegal storage of imported rice.
In his five-page complaint affidavit dated October 19, Jayson Luna, a member of the board of directors of the National Coalition of Filipino Consumers (NCFC), said HCPTI’s warehouse is being used illegally to store imported rice without written authorization from the NFA, which is headed by Administrator Renan Dalisay.
“The NFA, despite knowledge of this illegal storage of imported rice, has not acted on the illegal act,” Luna said.
He added that this is in blatant violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, or Republic Act 3019.
NCFC is a staunch advocate of consumer-rights protection and other issues affecting Filipino consumers, including rice smuggling.
Luna said the operations of HCPTI facilities are observable by the public.
“We received reports of hundreds of sacks of rice being hauled in and out of HCPTI facilities in Manila. After verifying these reports, we agreed to put this issue in public, as it involves substantial public interest,” he added.
Luna said the NFA admitted in a news statement posted on its website that “HCPTI does not have NFA accreditation, but their facilities have been used for trans-shipment of imported rice, under the government-to-government rice-importation program.”
“It is also very questionable why the NFA was so quick to absolve HCTPI. In fact, their admission on the use of HCTPI facilities is very questionable, because there are government-accredited facilities, like the International Container Services Terminal Inc. and the government-operated South Harbor,” he noted.