By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Department of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol proposed the set-up of a farmers’ trading area outside Metro Manila to avoid displacement and to fend off extortion crimes against Benguet vegetable haulers and traders.
Benguet vegetable traders complained last week that P9 million worth of their highly perishable produce shipped to Manila markets were destroyed when their trucks were barred without prior notice, from dropping off their vegetable shipments at their usual and designated trading area.
Piñol said building a farmers and fishermen’s trading center in Meycaoayan, Bulacan to cater to agricultural produce from north Luzon including the Cordillera, and another terminal in Taguig City to cater to farm produce from southern Luzon may be viable solutions.
“Farmers should not be going around selling their produce, we should provide them an area where they can bring all their produce and buyers will come,” he said.
This would take about six months to one year to build, he said.
But in the mean time, if the Manila City government would again drive them away, Piñol said he will look for other possible temporary areas farmers could use while waiting for the completion of the food terminal.
Benguet Governor Cresencio Pacalso said Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada has assigned an area where the displaced truckers and vendors would be relocated to. “It is about 30 meters away from the area they used to occupy,” he said.
Pacalso went down to Manila on Tuesday, August 9 to personally talk to Estrada.
Piñol said the construction of the food terminals must go through proper consultation with all sectors involved.
Piñol said he would have to talk to the farmers and the buyers as well if they would approve of it.
“We can not ram these government projects down their throats, we have to consult them to know what is most beneficial to them,” he said.
Piñol also said the food terminal will address the extortion problems faced by the farmers. “They no longer have to enter the Matro Manila area where they have become victims of extortion,” he said.
Ariel Cayanan, undersecretary for operations said they will have to revisit the agreement with law enforcers, particularly the highway patrol group regarding the extortion issue.
“We need to revisit previous agreements addressing extortion with our law enforcers,” he said.
In 2004, then DA Secretary Arthur Yap issued Administrative Order 32 creating a food lane and exempting trucks hauling perishable goods from the truck ban to facilitate the fast delivery of goods to Metro Manila markets.
It can be recalled that in 2007, then PNP Chief General Avelino Razon, Jr. issued vegetable truck drivers ID cards bearing his signature and phone number to deter extortion by law enforcers who do not respect the food lane stickers.
In 2009, Benguet truckers threatened to stop delivery of vegetables to Manila if the extortion and pilfering of their goods along the highway will not stop. At that time, the vegetable traders complained that apart from extortion, their goods are stolen by thieves who take advantage of the traffic jams. # nordis.net