By LITO RULONA, Correspondent .
THE supply of commercial rice in the local market has been significantly beefed up last week — thanks to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) that called out the customs bureau over tons of imported rice that had been held at the Mindanao International Container Terminal in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental.
It only took some pressure from the NBI for the Bureau of Customs to speed up its inspection work resulting in the release of container vans of imported rice, some of which have been reportedly held in the port since August.
Councilor George Goking, chairman of the city council’s trade and commerce committee, and city price coordinating council co-chairman Jose Edgardo Uy confirmed over the weekend that all the container vans of rice at the Tagoloan port have been released as of Friday.
The confirmation came a day after the local officials inspected the port over reports that the NBI discovered tons of commercial rice from Vietnam and elsewhere that were held in the port.
Friday’s inspection was carried out by the Cagayan de Oro City Price Coordinating Council, National Food Authority, and the Department of Trade and Industry.
Sub-port collector Elizabeth delos Llagas said there was no rice hoarding at the Tagoloan port but only a “slight delay” in the required inspections because of lack of scanning equipment.
“There was only one x-ray machine unit that was utilized [at that time],” she said.
But after the NBI inspection two Fridays ago, the customs bureau found a way to add another x-ray scanning unit, allowing it to clear the backlog the following week.
Llagas did not say why this was not done long before the NBI’s discovery of container vans of imported rice piled up at the Tagoloan port.
Councilor Goking said he noted that the customs bureau managed to clear their weeks of backlog in just a few days after the NBI discovery.
Uy, for his part, said he also noted that customs officials found a way to clear their backlog in just a week after the NBI called them out.
“Ang amo is to clear the negative perception kay delikado man gud kadto kay daghan na dayun ang mosakay sa maong isyu. The custom officials explained that there was only a congestion in the release of the shipments due to the lack of x-ray scanning machines,” Uy said.
He said the surprise visit of local officials on Friday was made to validate claims by customs officials about the situation at the Tagoloan port.
“Kung sila sa customs ang mo-istorya basin sugar coated, apan kung kami mismo sa (price coordinationg council) ang mo-istorya, then wala gyud nay sugar coating. We confirm that all shipments have already been released,” said Uy.
He and Goking said they were convinced that there was no rice hoarding at the Tagoloan port.
Meanwhile, the National Food Authority announced that it has distributed some 275,939 bags of rice in an effort to stabilize the rising prices of commercial rice in the region.
Hazel Belacho, NFA spokesperson here, said the NFA rice, which is cheaper and is of “good quality,” is priced at P27 per kilogram. But each buyer is only allowed a maximum of five kilos at the NFA-Bigasan outlets.
Belacho said Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental, including Gingoog and El Salvador cities, received the biggest share at 90.2 percent or 214,526 bags.
Next is Bukidnon, 6,807 bags or 2.9 percent; Lanao del Norte, 6,499 bags; Misamis Occidental, 6,497 bags; and Camiguin, 3,420 bags.
“With this development, the rice allocation for major markets in Cagayan de Oro has been quintupled from 50 bags weekly for each outlet to 250 bags,” Belacho said. (with reports from Herbie Gomez)