Piñol posts open letter to Andanar; clarifies proposal to end smuggling

admin   •   September 3, 2018   •   3542

Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol (left); Palace Communications Secretary Martin Andanar (right)


Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol is dismayed by reports of his alleged proposal to “legalize” rice smuggling in the ZamBaSulTa (Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi) area.

The situation has been made worse, he said, when a reporter from PTV4 asked the President for his opinion about it at a press briefing last Sunday.

In an open letter addressed to Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, the DA chief clarified some misconceptions regarding his proposal to put up a trading center in ZamBaSulTa in an effort to curb smuggling.


Open letter to Secretary Martin Andanar

Tawi-Tawi Rice Trading Center to end smuggling, earn P1-B

Dear Sec. Martin,

I am deeply disappointed that a reporter of PTV4, a government television channel, would cause further misunderstanding and confusion on a very important issue by asking President Rody Duterte whether he approves of my proposal to “legalize rice smuggling” in the ZAMBASULTA Area.

Of course, when asked whether he would “allow the entry of smuggled rice to address the rice crisis,” President Duterte was right when he said “No, he won’t allow it.”

The reporter should have gone over my previous statements on the proposed Tawi-Tawi Rice Trading Center, which by the way is supported by the local government units and the people of the ZAMBASULTA Area, before she posed to the President a wrongly premised question.

Here is another attempt to explain what this issue is all about.

The smuggling of rice into the ZAMBASULTA Area from Vietnam or Thailand using the Sandakan and Labuan Ports in Sabah as transshipment points has been going on for years now.

While the illegal activity supplies the rice needs of the ZAMBASULTA Area (Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi) which has a rice sufficiency rate of only 10%, it deprives government of an estimated P1-B to P2-B in revenues and worse, it threatens the livelihood of farmers in the main island of Mindanao.

When the Malaysian authorities a month ago decided to clamp down on the rice smuggling activities in the ports of Labuan and Sandakan, the ZAMBASULTA Area suddenly ran out of rice supplies.

Now, the rice needs of the islands are provided for by the National Food Authority (NFA) but this cannot be sustained because with a total consumption of 220,000 metric tons every year, the ZAMBASULTA rice requirement would deprive other regions of government subsidized rice.

The NFA is importing only about 500,000 metric tons of rice every year sold for P27 to P32 per kilo in the market to stabilize the price.

Shipping commercial rice to the island provinces is a difficult option because the price of rice per kilo would be over P50 due to the difficulty in shipping the supplies to the area, a problem made worse by security concerns.

So, during the series of meetings I had with the local officials of ZAMBASULTA, the idea of establishing a Rice Trading Center, where the erstwhile illegal rice traders could bring in their stocks covered with import permits, quarantine and sanitary clearances and charged with the correct tariffs and duties, was endorsed by the stakeholders.

What would be the advantages of the Rice Trading Center?

  1. It would end rice smuggling because every sack of rice brought in through the Rice Trading Center will be charged with corresponding tariffs roughly estimated to be between P1-B to P2-B every year;
  2.  It will ensure steady supply of legally imported rice for the people of the ZAMBASULTA area until such time the Department of Agriculture and the LGUs have fully revived the rice farming industry in the islands and in Zamboanga City;
  3.  It will provide a safeguard against the unregulated entry of rice which could adversely affect the rice farmers of the main island of Mindanao. Under the proposal, the volume of rice which would be allowed to bring in through the Rice Trading Center should not exceed the total consumption requirements per capita of the ZAMBASULTA Area.

To set things straight, those who are saying that this idea means “legalizing rice smuggling” are simply missing the point.

First, let us define “smuggling.”

Smuggling is the act of bringing valuable goods into a country evading and avoiding the payment of tariffs, duties and taxes.

So, if the rice shipped in through the proposed Tawi-Tawi Rice Trading Center is covered with import permits, charged with appropriate tariffs and duties and covered with quarantine and sanitary clearances, would that still be “smuggling?”

Of course, NO! That becomes now a legitimate rice importation. Is that really difficult to understand?

I really hope that PTV4 and other government media entities under your department would exert more effort to clarify nebulous issues with other departments like the DA, especially in these times where the critics of the administration are engaged in a disinformation and destabilization campaign.

As it is now, our hands are already full trying to address the deliberate attempts of spreading false information by the so-called mainstream media.

The last thing that we need now is a PTV4 reporter further fanning the fire by asking the President to respond to a wrongly premised question.

I apologize for writing this open letter but this is intended to let the public know the other side of the story of the controversial Tawi-Tawi Rice Trading Center.

Thank you.

Secretary  Manny Piñol

Andanar cries ‘unfair’ over int’l media reports linking Duterte to ABS-CBN closure

Marje Pelayo   •   May 8, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar on Thursday (May 7) decried claims that President Rodrigo Duterte had a hand in the decision of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to issue a cease and desist order (CDO) against media network ABS-CBN.

The PCOO Chief said the NTC’s decision to stop ABS-CBN’s radio and television broadcast was ‘independent and impartial.’

“We decry any claims and assertions associating President Duterte with the National Telecommunications Commission’s independent and impartial decision to impose a cease and desist order against ABS-CBN Corporation,” he said in a statement.

Andanar said such action of the NTC is not an issue of press freedom. He emphasized that freedom of speech under the Duterte administration remains protected.

“This is not an issue of press freedom but an issue regarding legislative franchise. Democracy, and the free press and free speech that come with it, is very much alive in the country and effectively protected,” he said.

He stressed that tagging Duterte as the person behind the shutdown is “bereft of truth and just a rehash of an old malicious imputation to bedevil the President and his administration.”

“One should understand, first and foremost, the Philippines’ legislative processes and rule of law before connecting any precedents as being orchestrated by the President,” he said.

Andanar said the assertion that NTC’s decision was driven by Duterte’s previous rant against ABS-CBN is a “false narrative” and “remarkably erroneous, lacks objectivity and scant on factual basis.”

“It is, therefore, totally unfair and objectionable for some parties and some international media to insist that what happened to the network is due to ‘having incurred the ire’ of the President,” he explained.

Similar to the statement of Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque, Andanar reiterated that the President has already accepted ABS-CBN’s apology through the network’s CEO and President Carlo Katigbak in February and that the President holds no grudge against the network.

He noted that the NTC is just bound by law to decide and execute what the Constitution dictates and that the CDO is part of the NTC’s “independent, regulatory, and quasi-judicial undertaking.”

Duterte’s intervention to it, Andanar said, “would be in violation of the law or a Constitutional infringement.”

Andanar emphasized: “No one is above the law,” even ABS-CBN.

“ABS-CBN’s shutdown was brought about by the expiration of its 25-year legislative franchise last 4 May 2020,” he said. 

“It is within the purview of the Constitution that NTC, as a regulatory body, disallows the continued operation of any broadcast network with an expired franchise,” he added. 

READ: ABS-CBN may ask SC for TRO against shutdown order — NTC

The PCOO chief emphasized that at this point, the fate of ABS-CBN’s franchise is “within the purview and wisdom of Congress.” 

“The mandate of a broadcast franchise issuance and renewal is within the authority of the Congress, and not solely of the President, who only signs the law to be executory,” Secretary Andanar concluded. 

Malacañang asks public to remain calm as PH confirms first nCoV case

Robie de Guzman   •   January 30, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – In light of the first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in the country, a Malacañang official on Thursday urged the public not to panic and to keep calm as necessary precautionary measures are being taken to prevent the disease from spreading.

“We as the public not to panic and to remain calm as the government, especially the Department of Health (DOH), is on top of the situation,” Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said in a statement.

“We would like to assure them that the relevant health, research, and law enforcement agencies are working together to prevent the disease from spreading,” he added.

Andanar also assured that the DOH is in constant coordination and collaboration with health and research authorities in Australia, Japan, and China on implementing necessary undertakings on the matter.

“In fact, with the help of our counterparts in Japan, we are now capable of detecting and diagnosing 2019-nCoV-infected patients on our own,” he said.

He also said that government agencies have intensified their containment measures and that necessary precautionary measures are in place to address this health concern. 

“With the continuous inflow of travelers coming from affected areas in China, we will continue to conduct necessary stringent customs, immigration, and quarantine measures to prevent the disease from spreading within the country,” he said.

Andanar also assured that authorities will continue to coordinate with Chinese officials for the repatriation efforts for Filipinos in China.

A coronavirus hotline will also be created to assist the Filipinos there.

He also called on the public to observe all health and preventive advisories issued by the DO, as well as practice proper hygiene and cleanliness in order to prevent the likelihood of contracting the virus.

“Please remain vigilant and coordinate with your local barangay health centers should you observe symptoms associated with the 2019-nCoV,” he said.

The DOH earlier confirmed that a 38-year old Chinese woman is the country’s first confirmed case of 2019-nCoV.

She arrived in the Philippines from China on January 21, and sought treatment for her mild cough on January 25.

Andanar on Maguindanao massacre case: Hoping for decision by November

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 6, 2019

Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar

Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar hopes that there will be a decision on the Maguindanao massacre case by November.

“The court has already deemed the case as submitted for decision, and barring unforeseen circumstances, we are hoping for a decision by the 3rd week of November,” Andanar said in a statement.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) submitted a letter to the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFOMS) on Tuesday (Sept 3) stating that the case has already been submitted for decision.

Andanar said the Duterte administration expects that justice will prevail for the victims of the massacre as well as their families.

“This is another addition to President Duterte’s legacy, that one of the most despicable acts against journalists in the history of the world will finally come to a close during his term,” he added.

READ: DOJ: Maguindanao massacre verdict out by November

Meanwhile, the PTFOMS said they will remain vigilant to ensure that there will be no more delays regarding the case.

“We will exhaust all means to help guard the sanctity of the judicial process in these crucial times, so that justice may finally be served in these cases,” according to PTFOMs executive director Presidential Communications Usec. Joel Egco.

This year will be the 10th anniversary of the Maguindanao massacre that happened on November 23, 2009.

Fifty people were killed during the incident which includes 32 journalists.—AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)


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