BBM’s acid test

Barely two months in the salt mines, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is facing an acid test amid the magma of insidious importation caper and smuggling activities of traders that appeared to be in cahoots with top honchos in the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Customs.

It was providential that some eager beavers from the Sugar Regulatory Administration carelessly approved some 300,000 metric tons of sugar importation which was scandalously too huge it cannot escape scrutiny.

The presidential subalterns at the SRA must have thought, that President and Agriculture Secretary Bongbong Marcos is too busy working on other tasks they attempted to carry out fast claiming the country is short of sugar supply.

As it turned out, there are other covert and shady activities that sugar traders were engaged in, among these are smuggling of sugar using recycled importation documents. The raids of the sugar traders’ bodegas reveal that maybe we are awash with supply after all the brouhaha of short supply.

Since Marcos is into it, he might as well order a thorough investigation and raids of rice traders’ bodegas too.

The ₱1 billion worth of rice unloaded from 20 vessels in the port of Iloilo is just the tip of the iceberg. Through the years we heard of smuggled rice-loaded ship-side on the high seas. Let’s put to task our Philippine Coast Guard by moving some assets from WPS down to the porous south of Palawan and the Sulu seas.

Smuggling and large-scale importation of agricultural products are proverbial nooses in the neck of local producers. There appears to be a mafia controlling rice and sugar supplies in the country, I’m beginning to suspect they too are manipulating the supply and prices of fertilizers.

PBBM should take the bull by the horn and fight these diabolical cartels that imperil the agriculture industry and our poor farmers.

It is frustratingly to see the once vibrant North Cotabato Sugar Industry, Inc. and Davao Sugar Central Company now stagnating. I asked a sugar planter of DASUCECO why there seemed to be too few cane fields now. His response: “The cost of production on account of extremely expensive fertilizers had discouraged farmers from planting sugar cane.”

Is there a grand conspiracy among sugar and rice traders and hooded officials in the Department of Agriculture that control the prices of agricultural inputs to diminish productivity and then later go on an importation spree? Just asking.

President Marcos must continue his crusade with firm resolve. Where are we now in his plan to import fertilizer on a government-to-government basis? As I write this, I read somewhere that 500,000 metric tons of fertilizers from China and Malaysia are finally arriving.

This, according to DA Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban. The next planting season is about to begin. Hope these will be dispersed quickly through the DA municipal agriculturists with NFA assisting.

Next, who is in charge of reviving the National Food Authority and Food Terminal Inc.? Farmers need the post-harvest facilities of NFA as well as its buying stations while consumers hope FTI intervenes to bring down prices of essential food items to affordable levels.

Panganiban was hands-on in increasing the productivity of rice and corn during Marcos Sr.’s years. It was also that era when the National Grains Authority, the precursor of NFA, was set up essentially to buy the fresh palay harvests of farmers at a just and fair price. He can pass on his knowledge and discipline to the new recruits at the DA to fast-track the revival of the true NFA and the resuscitation of the FTI. I said “true” because NFA was caponized by the Aquino administration along with FTI.

No problems and challenges are big enough for a determined President. Some traditional political oppositions are not used to seeing actions and solutions to problems they want Marcos Jr. out of agriculture. That’s how the yellow brand of leaders love the farmers.

Tama na, sobra na! Your time of complacency and ineptness is over.

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