Organics group pressures SC

HIDDEN AGENDA - The Philippine Star

The Supreme Court (SC) is under pressure once more, but this time the pressure is not coming from Malacanang or its allies. It is coming from a group of rich businessmen from Makati who are out to defend the interest of the fledgling organic food industry in the country.

Will the SC succumb to the pressure?

The group of businessmen, led by prominent Makati socialite Mara Pardo de Tavera, made its voice heard at what media reports referred to as a “protest rally”. The supposed rally was held during the traditional organic food market at one of the residential/business sections of Makati.

Pardo de Tavera’s group was reportedly protesting against “field trials” being done for a crop variety developed through modern biotechnology. The plant type called “Bt Talong” has built-in resistance to pests and therefore do not need to be sprayed with chemical pesticides.

The vocal Pardo de Tavera is the successful entrepreneur behind these weekend organic food markets in Makati frequented by residents of the upper class villages of Makati, including expatriates.

In the “protest rally,” Pardo de Tavera was said to have urged the Supreme Court (SC) to stop the field trials for the biotech plants, claiming they are dangerous to human health.

By virtue of that “protest rally” in Makati, Pardo de Tavera’s group has emerged as the strongest local ally of the European group Greenpeace.

The said group has been leading efforts to block the government’s agriculture modernization program. The program recognizes the crucial role that plant biotechnology plays in the bid to produce more food for the ever-growing, ever-hungry population of the country.

Government scientists have also underscored the value of biotechnology in helping reduce farmers’ dependence on chemical pesticides, reduce farming costs and up their income.

The latest move by Greenpeace was to use the Court of Appeals (CA) to stop field trials by the government, led by scientists from the University of the Philippines-Los Baños (UPLB). Following a move by Greenpeace, the CA issued a Writ of Kalikasan against the UPLB group.

Recently, the UPLB scientists, joined by several farmers,  brought their cause to the SC, asking the High Court to be allowed to complete field trials for the biotech eggplant.

In the reported “protest rally”, Pardo de Tavera brilliantly portrayed the UPLB scientists as the villains. She reportedly called on the SC to order the UPLB scientists to stop any and all field trials for the biotech eggplant.

Pardo de Tavera represents the best image and vocal weapon yet ever fielded by Greenpeace in its continuing war against the UPLB scientists. She appears to have a firm grasp of the language of the organic food sector which appeals well to health enthusiasts.

Greenpeace’s switch to the use of Pardo de Tavera and her group may be a signal that the Amsterdam-based group has finally recognized the weakness of the other radical groups it has used as fronts in the past.

With the media mileage Pardo de Tavera’s business group generated following the “protest rally”, it may be expected that Greenpeace would rely more on them to pressure the SC to reject the UPLB position on the biotech issue.

Greenpeace may have finally found a good mouthpiece in its sustained war against biotechnology in the country. Mobilizing the rich in this country, as represented by Pardo de Tavera’s business group, to pressure the SC to junk the plea by scientists and farmers just might work.

Korean embassy steps in

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) was asked by officials of the South Korean Embassy to defer the deportation of a Korean businessman who has been a holder of a Philippine permanent visa since 1983 and who has allegedly been the subject of harassment.

South Korean Ambassador Kyuk Lee asked Immigration Commissioner Siegfred Mison to put on hold the deportation of Kang Tae Sik, 69, pending the Makati Regional Trial Court’s decision on his motion for reconsideration.

In his letter to Mison, Lee said several legitimate Korean businessmen are claiming that they are experiencing harassment here.

Mison’s deportation order issued last June 26 arose from Kang’s violation of the bouncing check law or BP 22 filed by Kang’s former counsels and business consultants, lawyers Alex Tan and Roberto Federis, before the Manila Regional Trial Court several years ago.

However, Kang’s lawyers argued that while it is true that violation of BP 22, is considered a crime involving moral turpitude, immigration laws require that such violation to become deportable “must be penalized with conviction for a prison term of at least one year.”

Kang was meted 10 months imprisonment only, and the same was considered cumulatively served. The BI on June 26, 2007, in compliance with the order of Manila RTC Branch 13, cleared all the proceedings against Kang.

Kang’s lawyers emphasized that the Supreme Court has already deleted the penalty of imprisonment for violation of BP 22, and thus, being favorable to the accused, said development should benefit Kang.

As alleged by Kang’s group, Tan and Federis abandoned Kang and put up their own business which they registered with the SEC as L&K Beverage International Trading Inc., directly competing with Kang’s importation business.

Last March, goods of Tan’s company were held by the Bureau of Custom for undervaluation. Tan’s group suspected that Kang was the one who tipped off the BOC, which triggered the filing of a deportation complaint against Kang.

Members of the Korean Association of the Philippines (KAP) have called on Mison to look into activities of said lawyers allegedly being done in connivance with BI personnel.

They also warned government that unless they are protected from this kind of harassment, well-meaning investors may be discouraged from coming to the Philippines and from investing here.

The KAP members also urged Mison to look into the alleged participation of unscrupulous BI insiders in coercion, blackmail and extortion activities.

Aside from KAP, the United Korean Community Association in the Philippines (UKCAP) is also seeking justice for Kang who they believe is a victim of extortion and blackmail.

In an open letter to Mison, the UKCAP headed by its chairman Lee Young Baek, threw its support for Kang as they expressed indignation over the businessman’s misfortune.

For comments, e-mail at [email protected]

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