Enrile warns rep of alleged rice smugglers for conflicting statements
MANILA, Philippines—Senator Juan Ponce Enrile on Wednesday threatened to hold in contempt a representative of a local consignment company during their committee hearing on the alleged rice smuggling in Subic Bay Freeport.
Enrile gave the warning during the hearing of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food to Cesar Bulaon, representing Metro Eastern Trading Corp., the consignee of the 420,000 bags of rice equivalent to 21,000 metric tons packed in bags of 50 kilos, supposedly smuggled in the Subic Bay Freeport.
“I will hold you in contempt,” Enrile threatened Bulaon after the latter gave contradicting answers to questions of senators.
“Be careful with your answer. You will tell a lie here, ikukulong ka namin( we will put you in jail),” he said.
During the hearing, Bulaon said the 420,000 sacks of rice was a shipment from an Indian company registered as Amira C Foods International and was a transhipment initially bound for Indonesia. However, the cargo was disallowed to be unloaded in Indonesia after the Indonesian consignee failed to secure an importation permit and was then transported to the Philippines for warehousing, Bulaon said. But he also admitted they do not have an importation permit to bring in the cargo.
During the hearing, National Food Authority Administrator Angelito Banayo said they did not issue an importation permit to Metro Eastern for the shipment. He added that as per NFA policy they do not issue importation permits after the cargo has arrived. The shipment arrived at the Subic Freeport on April 4, 2012.
Later on, when Enrile asked if the shipment was intended for Philippine consumption Bulaon admitted the foreign exporter also requested them to find local buyers of the rice.
“Sa madaling salita (In short), this shipment was intended for the Philippines?” Enrile asked to which Bulaon said yes.
Bulaon also admitted it was their first time dealing with the Indian exporter.
Enrile expressed disbelief because it was such a huge shipment and it was unlikely that Amira would be entrusted to a company they are dealing with for the first time.
“They entrusted it to you? Oh come on!” Enrile said.
Enrile said they will also call representatives from Amira Foods to appear before the Senate to shed light regarding this smuggling issue.
Last week, Enrile gave a heated privilege speech during the Senate’s third day of hearing for its third regular session urging authorities to go after financiers and backers of smuggling rings.