• Trader grabs lion’s share of agricultural imports

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    The government has been accused of favoring an importer named Leah Cruz by issuing bulk imports permits to her entities.

    Importer Lilibeth Valenzuela made the disclosure during the congressional inquiry on alleged P200-million scam orchestrated by Cruz in the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI). The inquiry stemmed from the House Resolution 341 of Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, Jr. of Dasmariñas City.

    Valenzuela noted that at least two of the Cruz-owned entities namely Tumana Trading and Purple Moon are each granted 60 import permits for onions, and that Cruz’s group has requested for as much as 582 import permits in 2013.

    “We are 215 accredited importers. Why are they [Cruz’s group] having the monopoly here? Imagine one entity getting 60 permits, and they even made a request that they be issued 582 permits in 2013. Our group was only issued two permits,” Valenzuela told the House Committee on Good Government and Accountability.

    “Besides, the new permits will be issued November, but per records of the Bureau of Customs, they were able to get cargos as early as September,” Valenzuela added.

    The Barzaga resolution alleges that Cruz used dummy companies owned by her drivers, clerks and house helpers as owners of her companies en route to a monopoly that allowed her to profit P200 million thru fraudulent means.

    Per Director Clarito Baron of the Bureau of Plant Industry, their policy provides that 60 percent of import permits are granted to farmers association and or cooperatives, while 40 percent are given to private importers like that of the groups of Leah Cruz and Villanueva.

    Rep. Agapito Guanlao of Butil party-list backed Valenzuela.

    “How can a private firm be issued 60 importing permits and then you only issue two for the other private firm when the policy is that 60 percent of the permits should be granted to farmers groups? It doesn’t add up,” Guanlao pointed out.

    But for Rep. Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna party-list, the real issue is not the squabble among importers but the importation of onion and garlic that affects the local farmers.

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