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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, July 18, 2016
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Pinol axes quarantine officer

This was stated by Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol as he relieved from his post the Bureau of Plant Industry quarantine officer detailed at the Sasa Port, Davao City, following reports that his office has been demanding grease money from exporters of Cavendish banana.

"After I received complaints from small exporters of Cavendish banana that the BPI Quarantine Officer in Sasa Port, Andres Alemania, and some of his people were demanding 'fees' for every container van, I immediately directed BPI Acting Director Vivencio Mamaril to issue a relief order," Pinol said yesterday.

Pinol said he will also issue another directive today to Mamaril to "relieve the whole BPI Quarantine Service staff in Sasa Port down to the janitor and replace them with a fresh group of Quarantine Officers."

"Corruption ends now," he said, but clarified that "there will be due process" for those who will be relieved.

"I will dispatch graft investigators belonging to a new unit I organized in the Department of Agriculture to proceed to the Sasa Port in Davao City to validate the charges. 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. The going rate, according to sources I talked with, is PHP8,000 per container or PHP40,000 per exporter per transaction," 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 added.

As such, Pinol said a lifestyle check will be conducted on the officials and if the charges are validated, "I will officially ask the Office of the Ombudsman to start an official investigation and recommend the filing of graft charges."

"President (Rodrigo) Duterte's vow to rid government of corrupt officials is not just cheap talk. It will be done," he said.*PNA


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