02/07/2014, 00.00
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Auxiliary Bishop of Manila against rice smuggling: beyond indecent

Msgr. Broderick S. Pabillo comes down hard on illegal rice trade. The prelate expressed "deep concern" about a growing phenomenon, taking place with total impunity. Public money needed for "schools, houses, roads ."

Manila ( AsiaNews / CBCP ) - The auxiliary bishop of Manila, Msgr. Broderick S. Pabillo has expressed "deep concern" about the illegal trade of rice, a growing phenomenon that is going on nation -wide " before our eyes " with total impunity . The prelate speaks of how the trade is going on unchallenged , in a nation which the level of " hunger and poverty," is wide spread and especially in "rural areas" . Official figures confirm the seriousness of the problem: last year every week at least 50 thousand tons - equal to 2 thousand containers - of rice were being smuggled. The government has repeatedly announced its intention to intervene to stem the trade, so far without results. According to studies of the Philippine Industrial Federation between 2002-2011 the government has lost 1.33 trillion pesos ( 29 billion dollars) as a result of smuggling .

Msgr. Pabillo, President of the Standing Committee on Public Affairs of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, condemned in no uncertain terms the criminals involved in smuggling as "beyond indecent". Businessmen including prominent Sino- Philippine businessman Davidson Bangayan are implicated in the affair. He is accused of having smuggled tons of product under the pseudonym "David Tan ." From his base in Davao, the "number one " in rice trafficking has created hubs and points of interest in Manila, Batangas, Cayagan de Oro and Cebu.

The Auxiliary Bishop of Manila fears that billions of pesos being diverted from the state budget because of illegal traffic; money, said the prelate , that could be used to " finance important public projects " like " schools, houses, roads " and all those initiatives that " are of benefit to the population ." In particular, he adds, " the most unfortunate ."

Using the local language Tagalog, Msgr. Pabillo states that "billions of pesos vanish into thin air ," because of the misdeeds of " unscrupulous traffickers".  He notes how they to compete with small-scale farmers who do not have sufficient resources to emerge from a subsistence existence which is both unequal and unfair. He notes that they are further depriving farmers , already hard hit in recent months by the devastating typhoon Hayian / Yolanda.

The Philippines is the eighth largest producer of rice, to a volume equal to 2.8 % of the total in 2010, Manila ranked first place among importing nations. The crops are concentrated particularly in Luzon , Western Visayas , in the southern and central Mindanao. The total volume of rice produced in 2011 was just over 16 million tonnes ; there are around 4.35 million hectares of cultivated land in total.

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