Probe 'special fees' at BPI-Quarantine

AGRICULTURE Secretary Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol has announced the creation of an investigating body, under the Department of Agriculture, to probe alleged corruption practices at the Bureau of Plant Industry's (BPI) quarantine service office at Sasa Port in Davao City.

This developed after small banana exporters complained to Piñol about the rampant extortion and corruption at the said agency, involving its personnel.

“The (probe team) will interview the over 200 cavendish banana exporters who have reportedly been paying the "special fees" to the BPI Quarantine Office for so many years now,” Piñol said in a his Facebook post Sunday, adding that this initiative is part of the new administration's step to end corruption in the country.

A lifestyle check on all BPI Quarantine staff members at the port will also be ordered by the DA secretary.

“I will officially ask the Office of the Ombudsman to start an official investigation and recommend the filing of graft charges,” he said.

He also said that "sources" told him that quarantine officers at the Sasa Port have been asking fees of P8,000 per container or P40,000 per exporter per transaction.

In the same FB post, Piñol revealed that he has ordered the relief of BPI quarantine officer Andres Alemania and some of his subordinates at Sasa Port for allegedly demanding fees for every container van of cavendish banana exporters.

“Considering that there are over 200 exporters, not to mention big players like Dole Philippines, Sumifru, Tadeco, Uni-Frutti and others, I can just imagine how much these people, granting that the charges are true, have been raking in all these years,” he said.

Pinol also said that he was set to issue yesterday another directive to BPI director Vivencio Mamaril to relieve all BPI Quarantine Service staff at Sasa Port down to the janitor and replace them with a fresh group of quarantine officers.

The Mindanao Banana Farmers and Exporters Association (MBFEA) and the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association are set to meet today to discuss the matter.

“We will have to go over the administrative orders and presidential decrees to study very carefully the issue against the Davao quarantine officers and staff," Dr. Evelyn Magno, member of the board of directors of the MBFEA said Monday in an interview with Sun.Star Davao.

When asked if they have encountered the same malpractice, Magno replied they haven't experienced such.

“No that’s not true (in our case). The complainants I think are not our members, they are the splinter group who wanted no restriction imposed by our quarantine office, especially the EO 40-41,"she said.

“We will also conduct our own investigation because if ever there is really corruption, extortion happening inside for years, then the one responsible should be punished, but hopefully those who are innocent will be spared,” Magno added.

However, a banana exporter, who refused to be named, told Sun.Star Davao in an interview that malpractices really do happened at the port for years already.

“One banana exporter has documents to show about his/her bad experience. In the present cases, there's more to it,” the source said.
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