LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Rep. Eric Yap and Davao City 1st District Rep. Paulo Duterte want a full-blown investigation on the reported unabated smuggling of agricultural crops that tend to significantly affect the local agriculture sector which is one of the major sources of livelihood of tens of missions of Filipinos.
House Bill (HB) 108 authored by the two makers want the House committee on agriculture and food to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the continued smuggling of agricultural products in the country despite existing laws, rules and regulations prohibiting the said illegal acts.
Earlier, the agriculture department reported that some P667.5 million worth of agri-fishery goods were reportedly smuggled in the country from 2019 to 2022 with over P10 million worth of products that were confiscated by the concerned authorities.
On the other hand, the Bureau of Customs (BoC) also seized P1.99 billion of agricultural products in 542 raids since 2019.
DA, BoC, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) also formed a task force in September 2021 to investigate the sudden proliferation of smuggled vegetables in the local market.
Despite their efforts, authorities, particularly the BoC raided a warehouse in Catmon, Malabon that resulted in the seizure of approximately P4.72 million worth of smuggled agricultural products such as, broccoli, carrots, and red onions and in April 2022, 100 kilograms of imported carrots from China and 90 kilograms of imported ginger being sold in Divisoria and Tondo in Manila were also confiscated.
In June 2022, shipments of Danury Consumer Goods Trading and Jeroce Consumer Goods were seized at the Manila International Container Port after detecting misdeclared goods including P75 million worth of frozen duck and chicken parts and P49 million worth of pork and poultry products, respectively.
The house bill added smuggling of agricultural products has been causing, price distortion in the produce of Filipino farmers and defeats the efforts to increase farm production.
Benguet vegetable traders said smuggling from China has been going on since 2007 Despite Republic Act No. 10845, also known as the “Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016,” which provides agricultural smuggling involving sugar, corn, pork, poultry, garlic, onion, carrots, fish, and cruciferous vegetables in its raw state, or which have undergone the simple processes of preparation or preservation for the market is considered as economic sabotage with a minimum amount of P1,000,000, or rice with a minimum amount P10,000,000.
During the Senate Committee of the Whole inquiry on June 2022, a list of individuals, including several Customs and Agriculture officials allegedly involved in agricultural smuggling, has been submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman.
Meanwhile, President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., during his inaugural speech issued a warning that the government will go after individuals involved in agricultural smuggling.
“It is imperative for the concerned agencies to ensure that the cases being filed against identified consignees of the smuggled agricultural crops are air tight to qualify as economic sabotage for them to face the consequences of their illegal activities that tend to impact on the established sources of livelihood of our farmers,” the house bill stated.
Congressman Yap expressed hope that the House committee on agriculture and food will be able to unearth the people behind the unabated smuggling of agricultural crops because it is taking its tool on the overall growth of the country’s agriculture sector.
He added that instead of supporting the development of the country’s agriculture sector to be able to provide Filipino farmers with sustainable sources of livelihood, the unabated smuggling of agricultural crops causes a significant decrease in the buying prices of locally produced ones that lead to heavy losses on the part of the local agriculture industry stakeholders.
Yap, who previously served as the province’s caretaker congressman from January 20, 2020 to June 30, 2022, claimed that the Filipino farmers deserve to be given the utmost support by the concerned government agencies for them to be able to improve their production and ensure the marketability of their produce that is why the smuggling of agricultural crops should not be tolerated by those enforcing the laws, rules and regulations.
Congressman Yap assured concerned agriculture industry stakeholders that he will do his best to compel responsible government officers to work double time to put a stop to the illegal entry of agricultural crops in the country to help in providing sustainable sources of livelihood for the Filipinos, especially the farmers from Benguet.
To date, Benguet remains to be the producer of more than 80 percent of semi-temperate vegetables that are sold in the different markets around the archipelago.
Yap emphasised that I takes the dedication and cooperation of every stakeholder to put a stop on the smuggling of agricultural crops that is why concerned sectors must be vigilant to report to the concerned authorities any illegal activity that they are of so that the same will be immediately acted upon to send a clear message that the present administration does not tolerate the smuggling activities of unscrupulous traders in cahoots with some government authorities.