NFA Official Calls Pangilinan’s
Accusations Baseless, Malicious
The chief of staff of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala called as “baseless and malicious” the accusation hurled against him and Agriculture Assistant Secretary Orlan Calayag by the Office of Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization (PAFSAM) Secretary Francis Pangilinan that they received a bribe to favor a cargo handler for rice imported from Vietnam in 2013.
“The accusation is that we favored the cargo handler Avega Bros. Integrated Shipping Corp. in exchange for a bribe of US $3 per metric ton. This is baseless and malicious. I vehemently deny the accusation.” Atty. Dennis Guerrero said.
Rice importations under Asec. Calayag, National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator until his courtesy resignation in May 2014, have already been scrutinized by the Senate, Congress and the National Bureau of Investigation. They found it to be above board, Guerrero added.
Guerrero was NFA Special Assistant to the Administrator before becoming Chief of Staff of Secretary Alcala barely three months ago. Guerrero also announced that he is taking a leave of absence from his post as Alcala’s Chief of Staff “to spare the Secretary from this brouhaha.” He is aware “that there are many forces which might think of taking advantage of this situation to force the Secretary’s ouster.”
“I have not seen another person who takes the interest of our farmers and fishermen more than he (Alcala) does. He would be a sorry loss for the administration if he would be unjustly dragged in this situation,” Guerrero added.
He said, “Pangilinan has not offered proof that there was pay-off and relied only on one unfounded circumstance, in connection with the 205,000 MT transaction in April 2013,” Guerrero stressed.
“He (Sec. Pangilinan) relies solely on one circumstance, which is unfounded-- that in connection with the 205,000 metric ton transaction in April 2013, the National Food Authority unjustly and illegally forced Vietnam Southern Food Corporation (Vinafood II) to accept Avega Bros as subcontractor of DYS Seair Worldwide, Inc. (DYS) for cargo handling notwithstanding the fact that DYS already contracted the services from Vinafood II,” he added.
“We did not force Vi-nafood II to accept Avega Bros. to undertake cargo handling services. We were constrained however to intercede following difficulty in transacting with DYS,” Guerrero said.
“First we requested for documents to establish the legitimacy of DYS, including its articles of incorporation, its financial statement, the list of its officers, its trucks and its tax clearance from the Bureau of Internal Revenue. DYS failed to furnish those and to provide us a detailed operations plan of how to move the NFA imported rice from the ports to the warehouse,” Guerrero said.
“The NFA communicated to Vinafood II the need to engage a subcontractor with a track record and reputation, experience and resources to professionally undertake cargo handling. That Avega Bros. was recommended by senior NFA officials for having satisfactorily undertaken cargo handling in the past. The NFA recommendation was then forwarded to Vinafood II which accepted the recommendation,” Guerrero pointed out.
“The absence of bidding for cargo handling is not a criminal omission for which I may be prosecuted. The entirety of the contracts between NFA and Vinafood II is excerpted from the requirement of a bidding, in accordance with Section 4 of Republic Act No. 9184 which provides that ‘[A]ny treaty or executive agreement affecting the subject matter of this Act to which the Philippines is a signatory shall be observed. The questioned transaction, in relation to the procurement of cargo handling services, is an integral part of the contracts between NFA and Vinafood II and is therefore governed by these contracts,” Guerrero said.
“For technical and practical purposes, the cargo handling contract is a contract between the cargo handler and the supplier. It does not involve NFA. Any intervention by NFA is justified only by the need to safeguard its importation,” he added.
“The term of the contract with Vinafood II is CIF, DDU. This means that Vinafood II shall pay for the cost of the goods, insurance and freight and that the goods shall be delivered to NFA warehouses without cost to NFA. The only obligation of the NFA is to pay duties on the goods. This is also the case for the surveyor. If it were otherwise, the NFA and our importation would be at the mercy and absolute control of the supplier. This is inimical to our national interest,” Guerero said.
He added that the NFA followed strict rules to ensure accountability and transparency. Interested parties who seek a contract for cargo handling and surveying undergo a strict accreditation process. Parties not accredited are not qualified to seek contracts.
In a meeting called to discuss the operational details of the importation of the 205,000 MT, DYS was required to attend. Manny Santos attended and declared that he owns DYS. He was accompanied by the officers and directors of DYS, who turned out to be his mere employees, Guerrero revealed.
“Who is Manny Santos? This Manny Santos is the same person who owns or has interests in Jade Bros. Farm & Livestock, Inc. and Medaglia de Oro Trading, two companies which were involved in the illegal importation of rice into the Philippines. Their importation is part of the 8,000 containers that are held at various ports by the Bureau of Customs. He is also the same person who was hailed to the hearings of the Senate Committee on Agriculture under the leadership of Sen. Cynthia A. Villar to investigate his involvement in illegal importation” he added.
“He is also a known associate and broker for Davidson Bangayan, a.k.a. David Tan. DYS is also severely undercapitalized. Its authorized capitalization is only about a million pesos in 2013.”
Guerrero doubts about a news report that came out wherein DYS figured prominently and was, by implication, being portrayed as a legitimate firm robbed of a contract with the assistance of unscrupulous government officials.
Guerrero also questions the timing of the accusations saying that the current leadership of the NFA and PAFSAM are presently embroiled in an extortion case.
“Is this attack intended to divert attention from that case? I note also that the bidding for the 500,000 MT importation is scheduled soon. Is this attack a way to sanitize the image of DYS so that the award of the cargo handling contract under this new importation could be facilitated? DYS, through Manny Santos, is now making the rounds of NFA regional offices and Philippine Ports Authority and is announcing to the whole world that he will provide cargo handling services for NFA,” he added.
According to Guerrero, these are causes for serious concern as these imply a seeming alliance between unscrupulous businessmen and the present NFA/PAFSAM leadership. /MP