Press Release
April 9, 2008

Transcript of interview with Senator Pia S. Cayetano (excerpts)
Topic: Government's lifting of rice import quotas, Unresolved scams in government's agriculture funds

ANC - On the Scene

Q: Your main objection on the lifting of the quota on the rice importation is...

SPSC: Secretary Yap has clarified that what they are actually going to be doing is that NFA will be purchasing the rice, so private traders will not be importing directly but through NFA. So with NFA purchasing the rice, they will not be paying the tariff while the traders will be paying them a fee equivalent to around 10% of the tariff that should have been paid. So what happens there is importation by the private sector with no tariff. If you factor in the fee, the net effect is only like a ten percent tariff, as opposed to the existing 50% tariff.

The overall effect on the farmers is there will now be cheap imported rice coming in at something like a 10% tariff. This would then have a big impact on local rice production in the long run, because the tariffs and the quotas were meant to protect local industry. My objection there is how we look at this whole thing. I know and I understand that the initial objective is to just curtail this immediate panic effect, but I always wanted to look at the long term plans. So what is the long-term plan and how will these decisions affect this?

Q: Admittedly, it's a stop gap. That would mean that it is temporary, right?

SPSC: That we don't know, I just also read in the papers that there is now a P40 plus billion fund that's going to be allocated by the President for rice production, and I await to see how that fund will be allocated among the different concerns. Will it go to subsidy? Will it go to irrigation facilities? Will it be going to support services? And what's the master plan? Yes we were caught off-guard, but for the longest time, at the very least since I've become a senator I've had a couple of briefings by those involved in the agricultural sector and there seemed to be no long-term development plan for our agricultural sector.

Unfortunately we need to have a plan, and that we have not seen. Sadly, the way you make plans when you are in panic mode is very different when you make plans for the long term. I'm expressing various concerns to be sure that nothing is overlooked. I recognize and acknowledge efforts being done. I just want to be sure these are not left as stop-gap measures.

Just to bring another issue that I'm very concerned about, is this task force on hoarders. How difficult is it to get to these hoarders? With all the intelligence funds we have, with all the funding supposedly going into intelligence, I'm so sure that with a snap of a finger they can produce a list of those hoarders. Will we ever see these hoarders put behind bars?

Q: Why does the government seem to have a difficult time in identifying and nabbing these hoarders?

SPSC: Because it has become our practice to protect and to even cuddle people involved in high crimes in this country. Since when has this government voluntarily brought forth wrongdoers in government for prosecution? When have they voluntarily shown that they are really pro-active about prosecuting major offenders in this country? Like Joc-joc Bolante. The Senate just wanted to hear what his take was on the scam.

We're talking about P43 billion that the President wants to allocate. I computed the figures involved in the past scams: P750 million for the fertilizer scam, P2.25 for the swine fund, P3.1 billion for the irrigation fund, that's already P6 billion that's questionable. Then the administration will refuse to explain, will refuse to attend hearings, will go to court and have a case that says they will not go to the Senate?

When this P6 billion would have been put into really good programs, and I am not saying that there aren't any, but because there is so much question and doubt, the people deserve a credible government and I feel it's for the Executive to explain where this P43 billion will go because some P6 billion allotted before cannot be accounted now. And today we read about another P 2 billion on the salt fertilizer and corn seed, and that's P8 billion now being questioned.

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