Vietnam agriculture ministry denies bribing Philippine officials


BusinessWorld

THE VIETNAM Agriculture Ministry denied allegations that the state- owned companies Vinafood I (Vietnam Northern Food Corp.) and Vinafood II (Vietnam Southern Food Corp.) had bribed Philippine officials to grant a contract for the importation of 800,000 metric tons (MT) of rice.

Earlier in June, Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala and former NFA administrator Orlan Calayag were accused of getting P1.8 billion in kickbacks on the rice importation from Vietnam, accusations denied by Department of Agriculture (DA) Chief-of-Staff Dennis M. Guerrero.

According to Vietnam's Agriculture and Rural Development Deputy Minister Ha Cong Tuan, "both of them (Vinafood I and Vinafood II) affirmed that their companies hadn't paid bribes to Philippine officials," reported Vietnamese online newspaper VNExpress over the weekend.

The report also quoted the Deputy Minister as saying that Hanoi has yet to receive an official statement from the Philippines regarding the alleged bribery.

"This is a Filipino internal affair which needs to be settled by the country. We will not give any explanations related to the matter," said Vinafood II General Director Huynh The Nang.

Vinafood II Deputy General Director Nguyen Ngoc Nam also denied involvement in the accusation to Saigon Times, another online Vietnamese newspaper.

"Vinafood II did not do this," he said.

"Bribe-giving is impossible at such an international competitive year tender," he added, explaining that the Philippines invited rice exporters from all over the world to an open international bid.

During the bidding conducted on April 15, Vinafood I and Vinafood II offered the lowest prices and were thus awarded the deal.

Vinafood I offered a bid of $436-$439 per MT for the first 200,000 MT while Vinafood II won the three other 200,000 MT orders for $436.50 per MT, $437.75 per MT, and $439.25 per MT.

Other firms that participated in the bidding were Singapore-based firms Olam International and Roan Agrifactor Corp., Louis Dreyfus Commodities Asia Pte. Ltd., Thailand-based Thai Hua Co. Ltd. and Hong Kong- based Singsong HK Ltd.

As of now, half of the total shipment has already been imported, according to National Food Authority Spokesperson Rex C. Estoperez.

"Arrivals are scheduled at 200,000 per month for May, June, July, and August. We have already imported 400,000 MT of rice," he said.

According to the DA's Mr. Guerrero, of all the four plunder cases reported by the media, their camp has only received one complaint from the office of the ombudsman - regarding the misuse of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

Mr. Guerrero said that Secretary Alcala has already filed his counter- affidavit, noting that they "have already responded and it is awaiting resolution."

"It is up to the Ombudsman to act on it," he added.

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