POSTSCRIPT / May 21, 2013 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Customs, NFA, SSS need better managers

RESCUE PLAN: The bright boys of President Noynoy Aquino running the Social Security System better come up fast with a rescue plan for the system saddled with a ballooning unfunded liability of P1.1 TRILLION (!) without adding to the burden of its 29 million members.

Also, and this is important, they should jail the insider crooks who have been illegally claiming benefits by usurping the names and data of unsuspecting members whose account do not move because they do not log transactions.

I myself have been an SSS member whose identity was taken over by an impostor who – with the connivance of SSS syndicates — was able to secure benefits in my name. They even declared me dead and collected burial and other assistance! (See Postscript of May 7, 2013.)

Until now the perpetrators, including their insider connections, are still not behind bars, free to victimize other members who do not bother to monitor their accounts.

Instead of scaring us with talk of possible bankruptcy, the SSS should improve the quality of its investments and services, be more judicious in the use and placement of members’ funds, and drop the idea of raising rescue money by extracting bigger contributions from members.

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NFA STINKS: After three years of matuwid na daan, the National Food Authority still pretends not to know that some cooperatives it deals with are actually for-hire conduits for importing massive volumes of rice that land in the black market.

President Aquino better check how many NFA officials have walked the straight path toward becoming multi-millionaires and partaking of “inclusive growth.”

Officials regale us with promises that this agricultural country would soon be exporting rice. Of course, the NFA can export rice anytime soon. With all that massive illicit importation and smuggling going on there must be enough stockpile to export.

Thank gad the election campaign fund-raising is over. Maybe the authorities can now take a more serious stance on smuggling.

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CEBU SMUGGLE: If it wants, the Aquino administration can cut down big-time smuggling – and meet revenue collection targets in the process.

This capability has been shown in the recent interception in Cebu by customs intelligence teams of 1,194 twenty-footer container vans of rice illegally imported from Vietnam worth P1.2 billion.

Smuggling charges have been filed, but it is not yet the end of the story.

Retired Gen. Danny Lim, deputy customs commissioner for intelligence, better tighten monitoring of the case he painstakingly developed so the seized cargo, or part of it, is not retrieved by the smugglers through the back door.

As in the SSS, Lim should not stop until the culprits, including crooked NFA insiders, are behind bars.

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BIAZON CAN REST: With the 9-3 showing of his senatorial Team PNoy in the May 13 election, President Aquino has been given a sort of vote of confidence.

He can proceed with his purge of corrupt or nonperforming assets in Customs and the NFA and bring in straight, yet competent, action men to carry out his reform and rehabilitation agenda all the way to 2016.

Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon has offered to resign, I understand, for failing to curb big-time smuggling and falling short of already-lowered collection targets.

With the fund-raising over and done with, he can now be allowed to rest from the difficult tasks given him at Customs.

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INTEL WATCHING: The Vietnamese rice was smuggled into the Cebu port between March 18 and April 2, 2013. The syndicate was apparently unaware that Lim and his intelligence operatives had been monitoring its activities.

The rice was reportedly consigned to companies identified as JJM Global Trading, JM-ARS Trading, Neon Gateway Trading, Ocean Park Enterprises, Custans Enterprises, Melma Enterprises, NMW Enterprises and MMSM Trading.

The shipment was misdeclared as stone slabs, ceiling insulator slabs, granite slabs and wall insulator slabs. Lim estimated the hot cargo to reach 500,000 sacks of rice, more than that smuggled earlier into the Subic Bay Freeport.

Had the Cebu smuggling attempt succeeded, Lim said the government would have lost P600 million in duties and taxes.

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CO-OPS FOR HIRE: As the NFA continues to build up its stock, smuggling of the cereal goes on unabated.

In an earlier case, customs operatives led by ID Chief Ricky Rebong and CIIS Director Fernandino Tuason seized an illegal shipment of 94,000 bags of Vietnamese rice landed at the port of Legazpi.

After inspecting the goods, Lim identified the consignees of the long grain white rice as the Samahan ng Magsasakang Kapampangan at Katagalugan, Malipampang Concerned Citizens Inc., Ugnayang Magbubukid ng San Isidro Inc., and Kapatirang Takusa.

It is suspicious that even “for hire” cooperatives or those that are actually non-existent are able to secure NFA importation allocation quotas, presumably for the right price.

* * *

CAMI ‘BALITAAN’: A weekly breakfast “Balitaan” will be launched this Friday by the Capampangan in Media Inc. (CAMI) at the Bale Balita (House of News) at the Clark Freeport in Pampanga for an informal exchange of news and views by members and guests.

Members may just walk in and join, but must register any guest. In the future, resource persons and news personalities will be invited to enhance forum content.

The “Balitaan” will start at 8:30 a.m. and end at 10:30 a.m. promptly to give members time to file their stories and guests to attend to other engagements.

CAMI is a professional, non-profit organization of media practitioners with Capampangan roots and those engaged in allied business. With an initial 40 members, CAMI was registered in 2004 with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 21, 2013)

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