By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson scored on Sunday those behind an alleged corruption at the Department of Agriculture which he said threatens not just the country’s food security but also its national security.
In an interview over Dzbb, Lacson said that there is nothing more basic than food, especially in a pandemic. “If corruption infects the Department of Agriculture that should be at the forefront of food security efforts, it goes beyond human conscience.”
“Wala na. Saan pa tayo pupulutin kung ang mga walang kaluluwa, walang konsensya pati pagkain ng ordinaryong Pilipino di papatawarin?” Lacson said.
“May kumita na sa PPE, may kumita kung saan-saan, may kumita sa smuggling. Pati ba naman itong pagkain sa hapag-kainan, titirahin pa rin?” he added.
Lacson also reiterated his warning that such corrupt practices – compounded by Executive Order 128 that brings down tariff rates for imported pork products – may make local hog raisers and those depending on them vulnerable to recruitment by the New People’s Army.
“It will be easy for the NPA to recruit new members, especially those who go hungry after losing their livelihood and blame government policies for their plight. This has given the NPA an opportunity to recruit. This will add to our national security problem,” he said.
During the first hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole on food security, Lacson warned of some P5.4 billion in foregone revenues with the lower tariffs specified in EO 128.
The P5.4 billion does not yet take into account questionable practices such as the possible misdeclaration, under-declaration, or outright smuggling that caused government to lose more than P1 billion a year in the importation of fish and seafood products from 2015 to 2020, he noted.
On the other hand, Lacson questioned the seeming tendency of the DA to resort to importation instead of finding more practical alternatives – such as redistributing produce from areas where there is a surplus to those where there is a shortage.
“It came to the point that Senate President Vicente Sotto III and I were joking that the DA has become a Department of Importation because it seems all the solutions it can think of are centered on importation. Instead of helping local hog and poultry raisers, why insist on importation as the solution? Is it because there is money to be made there?” he said. (ai/mtvn)