PACC clears Agriculture Secretary Piñol from corruption allegations

Marje Pelayo   •   June 13, 2019   •   1836

Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol

MANILA, Philippines – The Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) announced on Wednesday (June 12) that it has cleared Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol from allegations of corruption in relation to the rice importation program of the National Food Authority (NFA).

In its Resolution 14 dated June 10, the Anti-Corruption Commission said it has “found no evidence pointing to unexplained wealth” after seven months of “thorough lifestyle check” on the Agriculture Secretary.

During the investigation that started in December 2018, Piñol agreed to open all his bank accounts and financial documents to scrutiny.

On his social media account, Piñol said he was relieved and overjoyed by the PACC’s findings.

“Today, I feel relieved. In fact, I am overjoyed and overwhelmed by the heartwarming statement issued by the PACC citing my action as proof that President Duterte has people around him who believe in his advocacy for upright and transparent governance,” he said Wednesday.

“I cannot claim to be a perfect government worker. I could and may have made wrong decisions. People could even accuse me of incompetence but nobody could question my dedication to my job and my work ethics,” he added in his statement.

The investigation was conducted by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the Land Transportation Office (LTO), the Land Registration Authority (LRA), the Philippine National Police (PNP), Civil Security Group (CSG), and Firearms and Explosives Office (FEO).

The PACC, meanwhile, on its statement said that other officials of the Duterte administration are also undergoing probe by the agency after Secretary Piñol volunteered to undergo a full lifestyle check.

DA targets 20.47 million MT of palay for 2021

Marje Pelayo   •   January 8, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Agriculture Secretary William Dar has attributed the country’s bountiful harvest last year to the various programs of the Department of Agriculture (DA) despite the calamities and pandemic that affected the Philippines.

Based on the DA’s record, the local production of rice has reached 19.44 million metric tons, which is higher than the 19.27 million metric tons recorded in 2017.

The DA said that one of the programs that helped farmers produce more is the Rice Competitiveness and Enhancement Fund under the Rice Tariffication Law.

The DA’s projection for the local production of rice for the year 2021 is 20.47 million metric tons while the Department’s projection for rice importation this year is 1.69 million metric tons.

Dar said the harvest last year represented more than 90% of the total requirement of the country.

Meanwhile, the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) emphasized the need to improve local rice production so as not to depend on importation.

This was after reports that Vietnam is eyeing importation of rice from India.

The Philippines is getting more than 90% of its import requirement from Vietnam.

“Ang mga dumadaan na bagyo dito dumadaan din ng bagyo sa area na iyon (Vietnam). So we expect na kung bumagsak din ang production nila, they have to buy from other places,” SINAG President Rosendo So.

Secretary Dar clarified, however, that the grains that Vietnam bought from India are used for feed manufacturing and breweries. 

“Vietnam buys 100% broken rice for their feed manufacturing and breweries because it is cheaper. They export their rice fetching a higher price and they have 7.1 m metric tons for export accordingly,” Dar said. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

Finance chief orders BIR, BOC to probe coops used for rice imports

Robie de Guzman   •   November 27, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has ordered the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs to assist in the investigation being conducted by the Department of Agriculture (DA) into the reported use of cooperatives by private traders as dummies for rice imports.

“There’s this question now as to why traders are using coops to import rice …. Let’s look into that because they might be using the tax advantage on rice imports,” Dominguez told BIR Commissioner Caesar Dulay and BOC Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero during a recent executive committee meeting.

Dominguez issued the directive following the DA’s decision to temporarily halt the issuance of sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances (SPSIC) to farmers’ cooperatives and irrigators’ associations for commercial purposes.

Through Administrative Order No. 34 issued in October, the DA suspended the SPSICs to coops and irrigators’ associations, effectively barring them from importing rice, after the DA received reports that these organizations have resorted to rice imports rather than carry out their purpose of procuring local rice from farmers.

Both the DOF and DA have also received reports that the SPSICs issued to cooperatives have been misused by traders to avoid legal responsibilities and evade the payment of the correct amount of import taxes.

Finance Undersecretary Antonette Tionko also noted that while cooperatives are not exempted from paying duties for importing rice, they can be exempted from paying the income tax on these imports if they are registered with the BIR as tax-exempt entities.

Through the AO, the DA directed the Bureau of Plant Industry to probe and to consult with affected stakeholders “to come up with new policies and rules to avoid circumvention of the laws” and to protect the farmers and cooperatives form exploitation.

Typhoons prompt price spike in agri products; DA eyes rice importation

Marje Pelayo   •   November 20, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The devastation caused by the recent typhoons prompted an increase in prices of agricultural products especially vegetables after major farmlands in agricultural regions suffered massive damage.

In major markets in Metro Manila, prices per kilogram of both lowland and highland vegetables noted a staggering increase within less than a month’s time from November 2 to November 20.

Lowland Vegetables

  • Ampalaya – P100 to P250-P300
  • Sitaw – P90 to P150-P170
  • Pechay Tagalog- P150 to P180-P200
  • Kalabasa – P40 to P30-P40
  • Talong – P80 to P160-P180
  • Tomato – P140 to P160-P180

Highland Vegetables

  • Cabbage – P60 to P90-P100
  • Carrots – P90 to P80-P100
  • Baguio Beans – P120 to P120-P140
  • Patatas – P80  to P70-P80
  • Pechay Baguio – P60 to P90-P100

To ease the effect, the Department of Agriculture (DA) is mobilizing Kadiwa stores in different parts of Metro Manila to help cooperatives sell their products at a low price.

“Mayroon pa naman tayong pagkukunan bukod doon sa mga lugar na tinamaan ng bagyo (We still have alternative sources aside from the areas affected by the typhoon). Steady supply naman po ng gulay dito sa Metro Manila in particular (Our supply of vegetables remains stable particularly in Metro Manila),” assured DA Assistant Secretary Kristine Evangelista.

The price of pork meat still remains above P300/kilogram despite the price freeze being implemented by the Department in Luzon which is until now under state of calamity.

The DA said they are helping to reduce layers of marketing cost to lower the price of pork and align it with the prevailing suggested retail price.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the recent typhoons left about P12.3 billion worth of damage to the country’s agriculture.

It had been anticipated that the previous weather disturbances would greatly impact the country’s total production of rice, nevertheless, Dar said they are still confident of reaching 20 million metric tons before the end of this year.

Dar added that the said volume will represent 91% of the country’s sufficiency level.

The official assured the public that the country has sufficient supply of rice and is projected to have enough stockpile for 88 days by the end of the year.

“We still have high hopes that we still have a positive growth in agriculture in general particularly rice in spite of the P12. 3 billion damages,” Secretary Dar said.

“By the end of this year, we will have still a projected inventory good for 88 days to last,” he added.

Dar said the country may resort to importing rice next year to fill in the 9% projected deficiency in rice production. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

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