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Piñol sacks official over grease money

DAVAO CITY – Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol has ordered the relief of Bureau of Plant and Industry (BPI) Quarantine Service officer-in-charge Andres Alemania who is detailed at the Sasa Port here after receiving reports that he and his team are allegedly demanding grease money from Cavendish banana exporters.

In a statement issued on Sunday, Piñol said he will also direct BPI acting director Vivencio Mamaril to relieve the whole staff of BPI Quarantive Service here and replace them with new staff on Monday.

He said that the grease money, according to the complainants, was placed at P8,000 per container or P40,000 per exporter per transaction.

The DA chief vowed that there would be a due process and that all officials involved in the issue will be probed by a team of graft investigators who he will dispatch within the week to validate the complaints.

“They 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,” he said.

“Considering that there are over 200 exporters, not to mention the huge 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.

He said he said he will also subject the involved employees to a lifestyle check and if validated, he would ask the Office of the Ombudsman to conduct their official investigation and recommend the filing of graft charges.

“In my trip from Manila to Davao this week, passing by Naga City, Catbalogan City and Sogod, Southern Leyte for consultations with farmers and fisherfolk, I reminded DA officials that corruption must end in the department,” he said. (ANTONIO COLINA IV)