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Charges of illegal possession of NFA rice readied vs. Cam Sur trader

LEGAZPI CITY -- Charges of illegal possession of National Food Authority (NFA) rice have been readied by government authorities against a big-time Bicol-based Filipino-Chinese trader in Camarines Sur following a raid by NFA and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) operatives.

Said authorities found the suspects while rebagging the government- subsidized imported staple from Vietnam.

This developed as complaints of NFA rice shortage in the market continued hounding small-time consumers who cannot afford to buy the costly commercial rice.

NFA Regional Director Ruben J. Reside told local media that a joint team of NFA and the CIDG on August 18 raided the Sweet Fortune Commercial warehouse inside the J.Y. Brothers compound in Barangay Mabulo in Naga City.

During the raid, some 503 bags of rice with the NFA logo were uncovered as they were being rebagged, according to the report of CIDG Camarines Sur chief Insp. Errol Garchitorena Jr.

Documents showed that J.Y. Brothers is owned by brothers Jerbert and Joel Yao while the Sweet Fortune Commercial warehouse is registered in the name of Sarah Jane Tecklo Yao and is said to be a subsidiary of J.Y. Brothers.

The confiscated imported rice formed part of the 400,000 bags of NFA rice allocated for Camarines Sur for this quarter.

The NFA sells the same to its dealers at P30 to P32 per kilo.

The other lower NFA variety rice sells in the market at P27 a kilo.

Reside said the P32-a-kilo NFA rice has a quality of a commercial rice is being sold in the market at P42 a kilo.According him, NFA rice distributors have a maximum allocation of 150 bags per week and quoting report from Camarines Sur NFA provincial manager Edna De Guzman, the NFA distributors who sold their allocations to J.Y. Brothers have already been identified.

The confiscated NFA rice was withdrawn from the NFA warehouse in Pili, Camarines Sur, from Aug. 15 to 17, Reside said, adding that based on the logbook and entries from J.Y. Brothers security guards, the names of the NFA distributors also appeared.

They will also be meted the corresponding liabilities, aside from the cancellation of their contracts with the NFA, said the official.

Industry members said the practice of selling NFA rice allocations to commercial traders has been a normal practice among NFA distributors under the very noses of NFA officials since long-long time ago -- the reason NFA rice shortage in the market cannot be solved.

According to Silvestre Bonto, president of the Camarines Sur National Confederation of Irrigators Association (NCIA), they had long exposed this scam at the NFA as the imported NFA rice, which sells in the market at P27 and P32 a kilo, has the commercial command price of P45 and P46 a kilo.

Bonto expressed surprise why the action against the selling of NFA rice to commercial traders for re-bagging is being done only now.

He said the raid that caught red-handed the re-bagging of NFA rice at the high-walled J.Y. Brothers compound was the first time in Camarines Sur, upon the entry of former senator Francis Pangilinan as presidential assistant for food security and agricultural modernization.

In his privilege speech during the provincial board regular session at the Camarines Sur capitol in Pili town last Aug. 26, board member Vidal Castillo denounced the NFA scandal involving the more than 500 sacks of rebagged NFA rice and sought for a wider investigation.

In Tabaco City in Albay, one Generoso Butial said he could not understand why despite government pronouncement of NFA rice sufficiency, it's seldom he can find NFA rice in the market, adding that if ever he can find some, the quality is very much behind the quality that the NFA keeps on boasting. --by Manilyn Ugalde (PNA) CTB/FGS/MU/CBD/RSM

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