The Bureau of Plant Industry, under the Department of Agriculture, is under investigation again as the Chamber continues its investigation of the possible hoarding and manipulation of the onion price late last year.
ACT-CIS Party List Rep. Erwin Tulfo said if the BPI had strictly monitored the cold storage facilities and ordered the traders to release the onion supplies when the price skyrocketed, this would not have continued.
William Mugot of the BPI responded that there is nothing in the guidelines that the bureau can issue such an order. But he said it had been recommended to the Department of Agriculture to amend it.
Tulfo said such rules are not laws, so BPI can change them immediately. At the same time, a threat was issued regarding the BPI fund next year.
“May hoarding tayo kaya sumirit ang presyo. Kung nagmo-monitor ho kayo, hindi aabot ‘yan d'yan. Kung na-anticipate ninyo, then nabigyan ninyo ng direktiba ang mga trader na ilabas. Are you afraid or natapalan kayo ng something diyan kaya hindi nyo nakita?” asked Tulfo.
Bureau of Plant Industry criticized over onion hoarding
“Sa present guidelines namin, hindi talaga namin nako-compel or mako-compel ang traders na nags-store sa cold storage warehouses to release their stocks…We are currently amending the regulation, so that the provisions of the price act will be included in the guidelines, so that we will be able to compel the traders to release their stocks in times of emergency and need,” Mugot answered.
Some lawmakers also criticized the BPI's decision to import 6,000 metric tons of red onions, even though 75 million kilos of locally-produced red onions are still in cold storage facilities. There are 800 metric tons here that have arrived in the country.
According to Nueva Ecija 3rd District Rep Ria Vergara, farmers in their province now face a problem because no one wants to buy local onions amid cheaper imported onions.
A group of farmers added that they were not consulted regarding the importation of onions.
BPI explained that the decision was rooted in the observed increase in onion prices.
Meanwhile, the owner of a cold storage facility was arrested and detained at the House of Representatives after being cited for contempt due to his allegedly inconsistent and untrue answers to the committee. He will be detained for thirty days.