February 25, 2024

Bicol Express News

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Farmers challenge Marcos Jr to file cases against agricultural smugglers

Photo: Department of Agriculture

Framers’ group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) challenge Pres. Ferdinand Marcos Jr who is also the current chief of the Department of Agriculture to file cases against those behind the agricultural smuggling in the country.

During the hearing of the senate’s House Committee on Agriculture and Food regarding the unimpeded and rampant agricultural smuggling, KMP Chairperson Emeritus and former Department of Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano said that the government should run and prosecute big time smugglers of agricultural products. The KMP veteran leader also handed down their groups’ position paper to the House Committee.

Mariano said that the senate blue ribbon committee previously had a report regarding the list of “persons of interest” allegedly involved On large scale agricultural smuggling. The DA created a task force on the matter. Agencies spearheaded the task force were the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) but Mariano noted that until now, no alleged smugglers have been caught. Worse, the smuggling of rice, meat, vegetables and among others continues. In fact, according to the said senate report, among those persons of interest was former Agri chief William Dar.

“It is the obligation and responsibility of the current DA under President and agriculture Secretary Marcos Jr. to exercise political will in punishing all those involved in large-scale agricultural smuggling and must work hard to dismantle the indomitable “smuggling mafia” that is colluding with erring government officials,” Mariano said

He also said that “Agricultural smuggling should be considered as a heinous crime. The government must protect farmers from unscrupulous traders and importers, who by their illegal importation of agricultural products, especially rice, significantly affect the production, availability of supply, and stability of prices, and food security of the country,”

According to the Bureau of Customs, from 2018 to 2022, they have filed 89 cases of large-scale agricultural smuggling and 126 other cases under RA 10845 o Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016. the cases. Currently, all the cases are in the Department of Justice waiting for preliminary investigation to file cases against those involved in the smuggling. Unfortunately, Mariano said that “Not a single smuggler has yet to be slapped by a criminal case, those behind the smuggling remain untouchable”.

In addition, KMP lamented that the uncontrollable and illegal entry of smuggled vegetables in the country continues to affect the local production as well as the livelihood of local vegetable farmers especially in Cordillera. Also, these smuggled vegetables also pose a threat to public health as it did not pass to government screenings.

According to the League of Associations at the La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Areas, at least they are losing at least P2.5 million daily or an average of 20 – 40 percent of their daily income due to smuggled vegetables from China. From May 2019 to 2022, around P667.5 Million worth of smuggled vegetables and agri-fishery products have entered the country.

“Congress should take action on the defects of RA 10845, in particular Section 3 ng RA 10845, it can be considered smuggling as an act of economic sabotage if the value reached P1 Million for vegetables and P10 Million for rice” Mariano ended.