By Aerol B. Patena
MANILA, Jan. 31 (PNA) — The Department of Agriculture (DA) has assured it will pursue reforms in the rice procurement of government to curb the reported smuggling and cartel of the staple food.
DA Undersecretary and Spokesman Emerson Palad, in a statement on Friday, said one of the reforms is the filing of charges against individuals or groups including its personnel that are found to be involved in the smuggling of rice in the country.
“The Agriculture Department and the National Food Authority (NFA) is committed on pursuing reforms that will ensure the transparency and efficiency of the government’s rice importation and procurement program and remains determined to achieve the goal of producing rice and other staples that we need,” he said.
The DA reiterated it strongly condemns rice smuggling, which described as a form of economic sabotage as the government loses taxes due to illegal entry of imported rice.
It also depresses the price of locally grown palay, therefore decreasing farmers income.
Palad appealed to concerned sectors to cooperate in the government’s efforts to combat economic saboteurs and protect the interests of farmers.
Likewise, he stressed that DA Secretary Proceso Alcala, who was being implicated in the alleged “rice cartel,” has consistently opposed the entry of illegal agricultural commodities and has pursued the country’s goal of rice self-sufficiency through implementing programs that increase productivity and income of farmers.
Rice smuggling is estimated to have cost the country around P7 billion in foregone revenues. (PNA)