LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – National and local consumer welfare organizations and agriculture industry stakeholders expressed their disappointment on the terrible failure of concerned government agencies to go after the smugglers of semi-temperate vegetables that continue to flood the country’s markets which pose a serious threat to the state of the country’s agriculture industry.
Further, the agriculture industry stakeholders and even lawmakers were dismayed over the repeated failure of Agriculture Secretary William Dar to attend the hearing called for by the Senate Committee of the Whole presided by Senator Vicente Sotto to discuss the prevailing issues and concerns related to the unabated smuggling of vegetables that directly compete with locally produced ones that is now posing a serious threat to the country’s agriculture industry.
Senator Sotto gave a chance for Secretary Dar to attend the upcoming hearing of the committee at his convenience so that concerned sectors can find strategic ways to curb the smuggling of vegetables in various ports in the country that are hurting local farmers.
Representatives of local agriculture industry stakeholders who had been attending the previous hearings called for by the Senate Committee voiced their discontentment because of the continuous finger pointing of the officials of the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Customs on who is to blame for the unabated entry of smuggled vegetables despite the existence of policies on these controversial issues now confronting the country’s agriculture sector.
What is ironic, according to Senator Sotto, is that the only one charged for economic sabotage for shipping into the country imported goods that were misdeclared as apples was allowed to post bail primarily because of alleged weak evidence when the misdeclaration was already blatant.
The case is a 2018 incident that caused the filing of economic sabotage against a certain Marilou Hernandez of Buensoceso Enterprises for the misdeclaration of onions as apples but the Regional Trial Court Branch 55 of Manila allowed the said individual to post bail after more than one and a half year of pendency of the said case.
Another issue that caused the disappointment of consumer groups and agriculture industry stakeholders is the fact that the task force on economic intelligence chaired by the Agriculture Secretary and co-chaired by the Trade and Industry Secretary cannot fully exercise its powers to curb the proliferation of the smuggling of vegetables because of inter-parliamentary courtesy.
The affected sectors are still hoping that the government can stop the unabated smuggling of vegetables as this impact deeply into the income derived by the hundreds of thousands of farmers from the production of various agricultural crops.