Duterte to rice traders: no illegal act, no problem with me

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 12 Jan) – Mayor Rodrigo Duterte on Friday assured rice traders that the city government would protect them as long as all their transactions were legal.

He warned a gathering of some 30 rice traders at The Marco Polo Hotel’s Jade Room that if they engage in illegal deeds, “you will have a very hard problem with me.” But he assured them he would personally protect them if their business is legitimate.

“You do it the right way and I will protect you,” Duterte said.

He said he would know if the goods they sell are smuggled because there are a lot of agencies “sniffing,” referring to agencies like the National Bureau of Investigation, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, and the Philippine National Police. “They have marshalled the forces of government to help us.”

Duterte told the traders he would insist on his visitorial rights as the city’s executive and examine minute details such as the integrity of the warehouse structure, electrical connections, as well as health undertakings just to ensure that the business is legitimate.

He asked them to inform him if there were agencies asking them anything else outside those demanded by the law. “I will not allow extortion. All they have to do is call my number and I will personally deal with the problem.”

Duterte said he was adamant in protecting local traders, especially when they pay the right taxes.

He added that the local traders did not have to import rice. However, he told the traders to find out where the rice supply was coming from.

Johnny Loyola, among the traders that Duterte met, manifested the group’s support and thanked the mayor for his assurance.

“The whole country is affected because of the loss of taxes,” Loyola said. “If you import cheap rice and flood it in the market, this will affect (the locally produced rice) that we are buying.”

Loyola said that there was a previous practice from some suppliers of imported rice where some documents were recycled. “We don’t know. We always buy in good faith, we assume that it is legal. But we don’t know how legal,” he said.

Loyola said they assured Duterte they would not buy smuggled rice.

Duterte said he would insist on a very strict rule for everyone.

“Beginning today, the Davao port would be ‘legal.’ If you enter, you have to pay taxes. I don’t care how many aircraft carrier-loads of goods you bring in. Just pay the taxes,” he said.

He added that rice goods would have to be cleared with the National Food Authority. “More than what you import, it can create an oversupply and compete with the local farmers,” he said