Guingona: DA, NFA executives making millions
The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – Opposition Rep. Teofisto Guingona III claimed yesterday that so-called “crocodiles” or corrupt government officials are raking in millions of dollars in commissions on rice importations.
Guingona, a congressman of Bukidnon and a senatorial candidate of the Liberal Party, said these officials, whom he did not identify, are apparently behind the government’s decision to increase rice imports even before experts could ascertain the extent of damage to farming caused by the El Niño dry spell.
“Total imports this year will hit a record high of 2.45 million metric tons (49 million 50-kilo bags),” he said.
He said it is common knowledge in the rice industry that there is big money to be made from rice importation.
A rice importer interviewed by ABS-CBN Channel 2’s Anthony Taberna claimed that there used to be a commission of $25 to $30 per metric ton of imported rice.
“That is no longer the case. The commission has increased to $80-$100 per metric ton,” he said.
The importer, who was not identified for security reasons, claimed that an “influential personality and corrupt officials from the Department of Agriculture and National Food Authority (NFA)” are among those who share the huge commissions.
He said there are commissions to be made even from rice imports arranged on a government-to-government basis.
Taberna also reported that the findings of the Commission on Audit showed that between 2004 and 2007, the Arroyo administration had authorized the importation of rice even when there were no clear indications of a supply shortage.
Auditors also discovered that imported rice that arrived in the country were less in volume that what was ordered.
Guingona said the next administration should review the continued existence of NFA and its role in rice importation.
He said rice importation could be left to private rice traders and farmers’ cooperatives, while NFA’s role could be limited to “logistics provider.”
He said taxpayers should not continue paying for the financial losses of NFA.
This year alone, the agency’s losses could reach P194 billion, he added.
He pointed out that another option is to sell NFA to pay part of its liabilities.
Two weeks ago, some rice traders accused the NFA of changing its importation rules apparently to favor certain importers.
Agency officials, however, dismissed the complainants as sore losers who were not given permits to avail of the tax free importation of rice. – Jess Diaz