City officials and representatives from the rice supply contractors explain before the City Council the weight discrepancies of the relief packs distributed

Rice suppliers who were contracted by the city government to supply the staple grain that are being distributed to households, admitted that they committed “unintentional mistakes” in preparing bags that weighed under 10 kilos.

Myrna Ayco, owner of Ayco Bigasan and one of the supplier tapped by the city government, explained that their mistakes were caused by their rush to beat the deadline imposed by the city government in producing 37,000 sacks of rice within seven days.

“Hindi namin intensyon na manloko ng tao. Pagod at puyat na din ang tao na na-hire namin dahil magdamag kaming nagtatrabaho para ma-deliver ‘yong bigas within the deadline,” she said.

The rice suppliers also committed to compensate the shortage in their rice delivery.

Ayco also said that there was a delay on the cargo shipment of the rice supplies from Manila which eventually led them to procure from local suppliers.

“Nagka-problema pa ang delivery namin galing sa Manila, kumuha din kami sa suppliers dito [sa Palawan] kaya nagmamadali kami sa pagtitimbang,” Ayco added.

“Tinimbang ka ngunit kulang”

Representatives from the city government and its contractors were called by the City Council for the Question Hour after several city residents complained on Facebook about receiving only 9 or 9.5 kilograms of rice, which was promised to be 10 kilograms per household as relief during the COVID-19 crisis.

Councilor Roy Ventura likened the concern to the old adage, “tinimbang ka ngunit kulang”, and sought for its immediate remedy.

Councilor Elgin Damasco grilled the representatives of the rice contractors, accusing them of disservice to constituents amid the crisis.

Nenita Lim, one of the rice subcontractors, cried foul against Damasco’s accusation, pointing out that they have been doing business with the city government for a long time with no bad record.

“Hindi namin ginusto na manloko ng tao kasi galing din kami sa hirap. Kami ay sanay mag-timbang. Hindi maganda na pakinggan na nanloloko kami. Maaaring may kulang pero unintentional,” Lim said.

The City Council endorsed to the mayor’s office the recommendation that the remaining sacks of rice, which are currently being kept at the City Coliseum for future distribution, would be weighed.

The rice contractors, who were found to be at fault, promised to compensate for the weight discrepancies.

Beating the Deadline

Probing further on the system of rice procurement up to distribution, Councilor Peter Maristela asked the city government employees for the quality check in place prior to the food aid distribution.

Violeta Dalonos, acting general services officer (GSO), said that the random quality check was in place in lieu of the manual checking of the services or supplies being procured by the City citing that the need was time-sensitive.

“We have given trust and confidence to our suppliers. Random quality check, no discrepancy dahil naghahabol na magbigay ng ayuda,” Dalonos said.

John Alexander Russel, executive assistant of the city mayor’s office (CMO) who was in charge of the distribution, said that delivered sacks of rice with weight discrepancies were separated.

“Hiniwalay na namin ‘yong mga may kulang. Hindi namin alam na may ganoon palang problema kasi ang hawak namin distribution lang,” Russel said.

Russel also said that they only weighed the remaining sacks of rice upon Judith “Raine” Bayron’s order, daughter of city mayor who was supervising the distribution.

“Huli na namin nalaman na mga kulang nga matapos may magreklamo kay ma’am Raine kaya inutos niya na timbangin at ihiwalay na agad,” he added.

The rice suppliers also said that those who already received rice packs with weight discrepancies may be given the missing rice based on the audit that will be done by the city employees according to Bayron’s recommendation.

The city government had purchased some 100,000 sacks of rice pegged at P2,300 per 50 kilograms as an aid for the qualified households who were affected by the COVID-19 crisis.