SBMA exec denies hand in alleged rice smuggling attempt, to file libel charges
An executive of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has denied any involvement in the alleged attempt of an exporter to smuggle rice into the country.
"I categorically state that I did not participate in any manner in the processing of the shipment, including the alleged search for warehouses for the importation in question, or in anything pertaining to the shipment," SBMA senior deputy administrator for business and investment development Stefani Saño said in a statement released late Thursday.
He issued the statement after he was identified during a Senate hearing on Wednesday as one of those involved in the illegal entry of 420,000 sacks of white Indian rice into the Subic Freeport Zone.
The senators said there may have been collusion between SBMA officials, a broker named Bong Cuevas, consignee Metroeastern Trading representative Cesar Bulaon, and Indian rice exporter Amira Foods in order to facilitate the shipment's entry into the country.
During the hearing, Bulaon said it was Saño who introduced him to Amira representative Protik Guha and even looked for a warehouse for the rice exporter.
Saño, however, said Bulaon's statements were not true.
"I, therefore, categorically deny that I introduced Amira company to Metroeastern, and that I suggested any of the things that Mr. Bulaon allegedly said to the Senate and the media. In this connection my legal counsel is already preparing libel and perjury charges against Mr. Bulaon," he said.
He explained that Cuevas and Bulaon are both investors in the Freeport. Last March, he said Cuevas asked him if he knew Bulaon, whom the SBMA official just described as a locator.
Saño said Cuevas then asked for a meeting, not knowing he would meet Bulaon and Amira representatives there, who reportedly asked him about transshipment and logistics operations.
"I told them that transshipment is allowed and infact supports the mandate of SBMA to develop the Freeport as a premier logistics hub in East Asia," he said.
"But I also told them they have to be a locator to engage in the business, and that importations is not my area but that of Port Operations Group, who would know of permits, port fees and charges, while land asset management department and the logistics department would know the lease rates for warehouses," he added.
Saño said he then referred them to Ivy Alipoon of the SBMA logistics department to attend to their wish to become a locator for a long-term logistics business using the Freeport as their hub.
"As to the particular shipment of rice in the SBMA warehouses, my department has no jurisdiction over that. There is nothing in that transaction that passed through my office or the business and investment group.
"We do not even know that a shipment from a port user or a locator has been transacted with Port Operations Group. These transactions are processed by the Port Operations Group, from the issuance of permits, to the physical handling, warehousing and related paper work," he added. — RSJ, GMA News
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