Industry group hits gov’t inaction on agriculture smuggling

Workers arrange sacks of rice at a warehouse in Taguig City on Tuesday. The Department of Agriculture announced that the Philippines is now one of the top rice producers in the world. However, the El Niño's effects might affect rice production targets this year.(MNS photo)

Workers arrange sacks of rice at a warehouse in Taguig City on Tuesday. The Department of Agriculture announced that the Philippines is now one of the top rice producers in the world. However, the El Niño’s effects might affect rice production targets this year. (MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) – The Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) called out the government for supposedly failing to tackle the pressing problem of smuggling, particularly in agriculture products.

The alliance, which counts the Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI) among its members, criticized Justice Secretary Leila de Lima for being “the biggest obstacle” to bringing smugglers to justice.

SINAG Chairman Rosendo Co cited the case of businessman Davidson Bangayan who is accused as being the big-time rice smuggler known as David Tan.

In January last year, FPI Chairman Jesus Arranza submitted to the Department of Justice (DOJ) documents showing that Bangayan and Tan were one and the same person.

But the case remains pending with the DOJ despite the pieces of evidence that supposedly warrant the filing of charges against Bangayan.

“Ano pa ang kulang na ebidensya? Wala na akong maisip pa… Kailangan pa bang makitang may pasan siyang bigas?” Arranza told reporters on Thursday.

Bangayan has denied the allegations.

The DOJ needs to establish a probable cause only to elevate the case to the courts, which have discretion over matters pertaining to evidence, lawyer Virginia Laxa Suarez said during the same briefing.

“Kailangang magpaliwanag ang DOJ dahil masama itong mensahe. Bakit kapag big-time smugglers ang involved, mabagal ang hustisya?” United Broiler Raisers’ Association President Elias Inciong said.

De Lima is expected to step down from the Justice department in order to pursue her senatorial bid in the 2016 elections.

“We are happy not because we are supporting her candidacy but because the biggest obstacle in bringing smugglers to justice will soon be out,” So said. (MNS)

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