CIDG seizes 32,000 sacks of adulterated rice
Malolos City, Bulacan – Stepping up its campaign against unscrupulous rice traders believed to cause the spike in rice prices, government law enforcement units yesterday raided another rice mill and warehouse in Bgy. Tikay here and seized 32,000 sacks of adulterated rice.
Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas said the adulterated rice inside the warehouse of Purefeeds Corporation was discovered after the National Food Authority (NFA) in coordination with the PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection group (CIDG) conducted surprise inspection on rice mills and warehouses that begun last week.
As a result, the NFA has suspended temporarily the operation of the rice mill.
Last week, the joint NFA-CIDG operation against rice hoarders raided a warehouse in Bgy. Abangan Norte in Marilao, Bulacan and seized 5,000 sacks of NFA rice.
Operatives arrested 20 persons in the raid while transferring 100 sacks of NFA rice coming from Pamapanga to different sacks for reselling as commercial rice.
Roxas, who was accompanied by Bulacan Gov. Wilhelmino M. Sy-Alvarado, Vice Gov. Daniel Fernando, Malolos City Mayor Christian D. Natividad and CIDG director Benjamin Magalong Jr., inspected the sprawling warehouse and showed newsmen how the adulterated rice was being bagged.
Roxas explained that the broken rice intended for animal feeds which were shipped from Vietnam were being mixed with the Blue Diamond rice variety imported from Thailand. The grains are then repacked and sold as “Golden Bee” Premium Sinandomeng rice. A commercial rice milling machine believed used for polishing old stock rice to make it look like good quality rice was also discovered.
Magalong also revealed that the mixed rice were also contaminated with rat waste and smelled of urine. This perhaps explains why some rice varieties have unusual taste and smell. The rice is repacked by 25 kilograms and sold at P1,500.
The CIDG is still finding out where the adulterated rice are being distributed and at how much per sack.
Roxas said the owner of Purefeeds corporation, Jomerito Soliman could face multiple violation under trade laws.
“May violation sila sa NFA, sa Bureau of Animal Industry, sa Bureau of Internal Revenue at maging sa Bureau of Customs,” Roxas said. He said government is making sure that Filipinos eat safe rice and buy quality grains at government-imposed price.
“This is appalling. We will not allow this modus operandi and the public should expect our aggressive campaign against these unscrupulous businessmen,” said Roxas.
Bulacan acting provincial director Senior Supt. Ferdinand Divina said two trucks loaded with 450 sacks each of adulterated rice were also held at the warehouse compound.
The NFA is also investigating why the trucks have the logo and licensed plate of the NFA.
The local office of the Bureau of Internal Revenue is also investigating probable violations of Purefeeds.
The raid at Purefeeds was the 18th joint operation of the CIDG and NFA. Of the 18, only four were found to be engaged in illicit rice trade. So far, Magalong said they have inspected more than 200,000 sacks of rice, 80,000 of which were found to have violated laws on price control.
Atty. Sulpicio Agapon, Regional District Officer of BIR, said Purefeeds carries a business address in Sta. Cruz , Manila but is not registered with the BIR in Bulacan despite the large scope of its operation.
Soliman or his representative reportedly failed to show pertinent documents in the importation of such large quantities of commercial rice. Purefeeds is only authorized to engage in the business of commercial animal feeds.
“I think they (owners) will have a problem with that too aside from adulterating rice products with animal feeds,” Agapon said.
Soliman claims that all their importation permits are legal and that their operations are legit. He however, acknowledged that they are not registered at the Bulacan BIR office.
Magdalayo said evidence found inside the warehouse is enough for them to file charges against the owners of Purefoods Corporation.
Gov. Alvarado, for his part, said the government is sincere in apprehending rice hoarders and unscrupulous traders and agrees NFA rice should be sold at affordable prices and not be diverted.
EFFECT OF RAID
NFA rice is still being sold in markets at P27 per kilo and P32 for the whiter variety but the manner of selling has been liberalized, according to consumers following the raids on warehouses. At the Maypajo market in Caloocan City, stalls selling NFA rice now allow consumers to buy as much as 10 kilos. Prior to the raids, consumers were limited to only a kilo of rice, at times a maximum of two kilos. Aside from this, NFA stalls open only for a very limited time forcing consumers to buy commercial rice at a high price from stores who also operate NFA stalls.
“There is NFA rice for sale but there is no one attending to the store, especially after NFA inspectors have done their rounds. You will see a notice on the stall that says ‘break time’ but they don’t go back anymore,” a housewife told Manila Bulletin in the vernacular.
“I hope the NFA would cancel the license of rice dealers who refuse to sell rice to the public,” she added.
The Palace has a warning, though to rice hoarders and price manipulators : “we are going after you guys.” (With a report from Liezle Basa Inigo and Genalyn D. Kabiling)