Ex-DA chief denies involvement in onion cartel

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 1) — Former Agriculture Chief William Dar denied involvement in an alleged cartel behind the spike in onion prices last year.

Dar issued a statement on Thursday, expressing readiness to defend himself from any accusations related to the controversial onion price surge.

“I am more than willing to answer any inquiries on the onion issue, and repulse the malicious insinuation that I was involved in a cartel, which was grossly unfair, tarnishing my name,” he said.

During last month’s hearing, House Committee on Agriculture and Food Chairman and Quezon 1st district Rep. Wilfrido Mark Enverga claimed a certain Leah Cruz, dubbed “Sibuyas Queen,” already penetrated the market even before the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

The lawmaker said that Dar, who led the agriculture department during the latter part of the Duterte administration, had “a lot of explaining to do.”

But Dar stressed that the soaring prices were witnessed “after our term.”

“In contrast, prices of onion were stable during our incumbency,” he said.

“Simply put, we did not have any hand in the price surge of onion, that reached as high as ₱700 per kilogram (kg) during the last quarter of 2022,” he added.

Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, Dar said that during his stint from August 5, 2019 to June 30, 2022, the country had an excess of 107,719 metric tons of onions.

He also noted that prices of onion during the first six months of 2022 ranged from ₱60 to ₱80 per kilo.

“Like the general public, I also eagerly await the opportunity to clarify misconceptions and unfounded insinuations," he said.

"As the investigations and public hearings continue, it is essential to consider the factual data and timelines surrounding the onion supply situation, and how to attain optimum onion production and supply," he added.