By ELLSON QUISMORIO
THE Department of Finance (DoF) is open to the proposal of Quirino lone district Rep. Dakila Cua to allow the donation of confiscated smuggled rice to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DWSD), which could then use it to aid victims of recent flooding.
Cua learned this during a House Ways and Means Committee hearing Tuesday that was attended by Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua. Cua chairs the panel.
The agenda of the hearing was a discussion on the social benefits program under Republic Act (RA) 10963 or the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law, but Cua grabbed the opportunity to ask the DoF about his earlier proposal in connection with seized smuggled rice.
Cua said he initially directed his appeal to Bureau of Customs (BoC) Commissioner Isidro Lapeña since it was them that possessed the rice.
“I saw in the news that Customs said, it’s up to DoF to decide. So can you support us in convincing the Secretary na maybe we can donate the smuggled rice that were confiscated to DSWD?” he asked Chua.
“At least may maibibigay doon sa mga flood victims.”
“That’s a good point Mr. Chairman,” Chua told the House leader. “The last time we met, I brought it up with [DoF] Secretary [Carlos Dominguez III] and he said he is OK with it. We have to look into how to do it.”
The congressman subsequently asked if Dominguez’s approval could be announced, to which Chua answered, “I will consult with Secretary [since] we are looking at how this could be operated…it’s not easy.”
But DoF official nonetheless said that Dominguez “has no objection.”
Cua underscored the urgency of the matter given the heavy rains and flooding earlier this month that affected thousands of Filipinos. “Sayang naman kasi may mga (It is a waste because there are) flood victims all over the country.”
Just a few weeks ago, the BoC seized 2,500 tons of white rice at the Manila International Container Port (MICP). The contraband was worth P125 million.