Enrile calls for Senate inquiry into smuggling of rice

July 25, 2012 9:27 pm 

MANILA, July 25 – Alarmed by news report about close to P500 million smuggled rice, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Wednesday called for a "thorough" Senate investigation on the reported rice smuggling which he described as a direct attack on President Benigno Aquino III’s vision of achieving rice sufficiency.

”I was shocked to see in the news report about this smuggled rice contained inside the 1,000 container vans from India and another 90 container vans from Vietnam. What does it mean? The President is working hard to achieve rice sufficiency but here comes the reports about illegal entry of rice in our country,” Enrile said in his privilege speech.

The Senate President admitted that he was amazed by the nerve that the smugglers used in trying to bring in to the country such huge quantity of rice through illegal means.

”In my opinion, this illegal importation of rice will not happen without assurance that smugglers can bring in the almost half a billion shipment in the country," he said. Enrile called for the Senate committees on agriculture, ways and means, trade and blue ribbon to spearhead the Senate investigation into the reported smuggling of rice.

”I want to know the people behind this illegal importation. Who are these brave and intelligent importers who tried to import rice through illegal means," he said.

Based on the reports, the Bureau of Customs (BoC) will formalize the seizure of some 430,000 sacks of rice that has an estimated value of P450 million. The rice were abandoned at Subic Bay Freeport in April.

”I heard that the importers tried to used import entry declaration through broker Danny Ngo but the Customs police in Subic turned it down. They declared the shipment as fertilizer, construction materials and not rice,” Enrile said.

The Senate President also asked what happened to the x-ray machines that the government bought to the tune of US$ 140 million.

”Why they failed to detect through x-ray that the shipments contained rice? You cannot hide it because it’s 1,000 container vans,” he noted.

The veteran lawmaker described the attempt to smuggle tons of rice as "test case" to the determination of President Aquino to wipe out smugglers throughout the country.

”This is a test case if our determination to eliminate graft and corruption in our country and that’s why I’m bringing this problem here in the Senate. I’m appealing for your support to investigate who are behind to this attempt. Who are mastermind and backers?,” Enrile said.

Senator Loren Legarda as well as Senate committee on agriculture chairman Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan, and Blue Ribbon committee chairman Teofisto Guingona III supported the Senate President's call for full investigation on the smuggling of rice.

”Let’s finish smuggling in our country so that we will be able to help the President (Aquino) in his appeal to increase budget and help the agriculture industry, because if we will not be able to do it, we should better stop talking about economy,” Enrile said.

Pangilinan lauded the BoC’s efforts to curb illegal importation of rice as he set the Senate inquiry on August 1. (PNA) lgi/JFM

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