MANILA (Mabuhay) – Groups of rice farmers from Luzon have fortified their campaign against rampant smuggling, taking initiative to raise at least P500,000 for the arrest of suspected smugglers in the country.
In coordination with the Senate Committee on Agriculture chaired by Sen. Cynthia Villar, the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SIA) and Confederation of Irrigators Association (CIA) on Monday launched a “Piso-Piso” campaign which initially collected P55,000 worth of different coin denominations.
”They want to raise funds as reward for the witnesses who will come forward to identify smugglers because they said if smuggling of agricultural products will not be abated, it will kill local farmers,” Villar told the media.
She said the farmers decided to use coins in raising funds to emphasize their opposition against smuggling since David Tan, an alleged “Goliath” of rice smuggling, was also a former suspected smuggler of coins to China.
SINAG chairman Rosendo So said the target is to raise at least P500,000 from some 1.2 million rice farmers in Northern and Central Luzon who have denounced unabated smuggling in the country.
”Our target is not only to stop rice smuggling but also the smuggling of pork, chicken, and onions,” So said.
For his part, CIA president Ofociano Manalo accused Argee Guevarra, a lawyer of a militant group fighting graft and corruption, for apparently serving as lawyer for smugglers, including alleged David Tan.
”It’s very offensive that Argee Guevarra, who is identified as a militant lawyer, is defending smugglers like the so-called Goliath of smuggling David Tan,” Manalo said.
Villar said the Senate Committee on Agriculture has invited witnesses from the rice farming industry who are willing to identify the real David Tan in the Senate inquiry on rice smuggling on Wednesday.
She said the committee has invited Davidson Bangayan despite the latter’s denial that he is the David Tan being accused as “Goliath” of rice smuggling.
”Actually, Mr. Davidson Bangayan ignored our first subpoena addressing him as David Tan. So I discussed it with Senate President Franklin Drilon and we agreed to set another subpoena addressing him this time as Davidson Bangayan,” Villar said.
”Hopefully, Davidson Bangayan will respond to our subpoena and attend our public hearing on rice smuggling,” she added.
Villar said the Senate has also invited officials of the National Food Authority (NFA), Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and Bureau of Customs (BOC).
So said they have witnesses who can testify that Davidson Bangayan is the same David Tan being accused as “Goliath” of rice smuggling. (MNS)