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

admin   •   September 3, 2018   •   3235

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 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)

Piñol has instituted a ‘roadmap’ for DA – Usec. Cayanan

Marje Pelayo   •   June 28, 2019

Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol

MANILA, Philippines – Secretary Manny Piñol continues to perform as head of the Department of Agriculture (DA) following his submission of his courtesy resignation to President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday (June 27).

However, the Secretary prefers to work silently while waiting for the President’s decision on his request to be relieved and be transferred to a different Cabinet position.

READ: Piñol goes ‘less audio’ as DA chief after Duterte’s talkative’ remarks

While the President contemplates on moving Piñol to chair the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), the Agriculture Secretary has asked the President to pick his replacement from DA’s undersecretaries whom he believes would “ensure the continuity of the programs” that the agency has started and are now in the pipeline.

Piñol’s recommendation for the next DA chief includes current Undersecretary for Special Concerns and Legislative Liaison Officer Waldo Carpio; Undersecretary for Operations Ariel Cayanan; and Undersecretary-designate for Finance Francisco Villano.

“These officials are all competent and loyal to your ideals and advocacies. They are also familiar with the very important programs which are now in the pipeline whose implementation may be waylaid if the new head of DA would be an outsider,” the Secretary said in his letter.

Usec. Cayanan, for his part, said Secretary Piñol’s decision was unexpected.

Nevertheless, he is confident that the Department’s operations will run as planned because Piñol already laid a ‘roadmap’ for the next chief to work on.

“Ang maganda po ang ating departamento ay may mga road maps po tayo. (Our department already has a roadmap.) That, I think, (is) one of what we call accomplishments of the secretary’s administration,” Cayanan noted.

Among the challenges Secretary Piñol addressed in the DA were the outbreak of bird flu in Central Luzon in 2017 and the rice controversy in the country in 2018.

The Secretary opposed the enactment of the Rice Liberalization Law which lifted the quantitative import restriction on rice and removed the National Food Authority (NFA) regulatory functions.

The most recent was the Recto Bank incident that involved 22 Filipino fishermen allegedly hit by Chinese crewmen where President Duterte tasked Piñol to facilitate the offer of assistance to the affected fishermen. – with reports from Rey Pelayo

Palace lambasts detractors over Netflix video attacking Duterte

Marje Pelayo   •   May 15, 2019

Political comedian Hasan Minhaj | Courtesy: Netflix

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang lambasted a political-satire show on Netflix hosted by comedian Hasan Minhaj for “maliciously (implying) that President (Rodrigo) Duterte is an ‘autocrat’ who ‘every so often goes on a killing spree’.

“We find it desperate that, on the eve of the Philippine midterm elections, the vociferous detractors of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte would use an American comedy show, aired on Netflix, to demonize the Chief Executive and his government in its episode entitled ‘Brazil, Corruption and the Rainforest’ before the global audience,” Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said in a statement late Tuesday night.

Andanar made the remark after an episode of Hasan’s show “Patriot Act” went viral on social media a day before the May 13 midterm elections.

The Secretary hit Hasan for his “exaggerated” figures as the latter claimed that the government’s war on drugs allegedly yielded 27,000 deaths which is way higher than the actual, official count.

According to the Andanar, “There are about 5,050 drug personalities who died during the 115,435 anti-drug operations from July 2016 to November 2018.”

“We express outrage that such erroneous narratives, obviously peddled by anti-Duterte haters and trolls, would find their way to the gullible TV host and his comedy show and unwittingly parrot these falsehoods to an audience unaware of the real score in the Philippines,” he said.

In fact, Andanar said, a recent survey by an independent pollster which showed that 6 out of 10 Filipinos expressed their support to the government’s war on drugs “attesting that the campaign is effective.”

Also, in his video, the American comedian criticized Duterte for his endorsement of some senatorial aspirants.

In response, Andanar defended Duterte saying: “The President called on the public to vote for those who support his measures to uplift people from poverty and have a stable, comfortable, and peaceful life that they deserve. He also called on the public to dismiss black propaganda against the administration amid the midterm elections.”

But even if the President endorsed names for the senatorial election, the official argued that it is still the Filipino people that will decide on who shall be their leaders.

“The Philippines, like the USA, is a country where democracy is vibrant and the will of the people reigns supreme.  Ultimately, it is the Filipino people who will choose their own set of leaders and we simply have to respect the results of the elections,” Secretary Andanar stressed.

He added that the results of the midterm elections, which favored the candidates endorsed by President Duterte, just prove the Filipinos’ trust on the Chief Executive.

“The preliminary results of the nationwide polls affirmed that the public indeed heeded the President’s call. This proves that the voting population continues to believe in the genuine reforms advocated by the candidates endorsed by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte,” he added

In the latter part of his commentary, Hasan expressed praises for personalities critical to the Duterte administration such as detained Senator Leila de Lima and Rappler CEO, Maria Ressa for “standing up” against the President.

But Andanar argued that “their cases underwent legal processes and their politics, or opposition to President Duterte, has nothing to do with the charges that they are now facing,”

“Both personalities violated domestic laws with Ms. Ressa committing tax evasion, breach of anti-dummy laws, and violation of cyber laws; and Senator De Lima transgressing anti-drug laws,” the Communication Secretary explained. – Marje Pelayo (with details from Rosaliie Coz)


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