By Bonita Ermac
ILIGAN CITY – The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the National Food Authority (NFA) discovered more than 50,000 bags of rice in a raid on three warehouses in Barangay Pala-o here, Tuesday.
According to a report from the Task Force on Rice, the first two warehouses had more than 20,000 bags containing 25- and 50-kilo commercial rice bags supposedly owned by a certain Sonia Payan, who is based in Cagayan de Oro.
Payan was not around when the raiding team arrived, and only a Chinese national named Yang Jianzhu from Fugian, China was present, according to NBI District Office Chief Abdul Jamal D. Dimaporo.
“Wala, ang nakita lang natin iyong Chinese man, siya ang humarap sa amin na siya raw ang may-ari. Pero nung tiningnan natin ang license, naka-license kay Sonia Payan (We didn’t find anyone except for the Chinese man. He was the one who faced us and told us he was the owner. But in the license, it was Sonia Payan),” said Dimaporo.
Virgilio Guimbao, delivery driver, said the bags of rice arrived on Friday last week from Manila. But he denied it was being hidden because these were being sold freely to anyone who came to the warehouses. Some were even said to be re-sold at the Pala-o public market or in others markets in Mindanao, particularly in Ipil, Zamboanga-Sibugay.
Another warehouse contained more than 30,000 bags of rice and these were suspected to be smuggled and reportedly owned by a certain Johnny Tan.
“Ito kasi suspected na may smuggled rice, kasi iyong markings ng sako from Malaysia, tapos i-resack into local rice (This was suspected to be smuggled because the markings on the sack say they came from Malaysia, then they just re-pack as local rice)”, said Dimaporo.
They also found empty sacks, thread for sealing, and unlabelled sacks of rice.
The unlabelled sacks of rice will be converted into local rice, and marked as “Grand Master” with resource address in Lala, Lanao del Norte, according to Dimaporo.
He added that Tan later said he bought the rice from his agents, and said that he did not know the repacking of the rice was illegal. and denied awareness that repacking is forbidden.
Panya and Tan only had license to operate rice retail stores, and not to maintain a warehouse.
NFA Provincial Director Sambitory Dimaporo said that the three warehouses were not in their inventory in Iligan City or Lanao del Norte.
“So, gi-hoard gyud ni siya, gitago”, (so, its being hoarded, hidden) said Dimaporo.
The three warehouses have been padlocked while a thorough investigation is ongoing.
“So, because there is due process, we will summon them to appear to our office, then investigate”, Dimaporo added.