February 8, 2023

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“Punish big smugglers of agricultural products”

A lawmaker is pushing for a no-holds-barred crackdown on big farm smugglers who distort market prices and hurt local farmers.

Over the weekend, Senator Win Gatchalian urged authorities to hunt down smuggling syndicates to protect local farmers from “unfair competition”.

Gatchalian relayed the farmers’ grievances, citing reports that while contraband farm products were being confiscated left and right, the so-called “big fish” behind farm product smuggling went untouched.

“Kaliwa’t kanan ang mga nakukumpiskang produktong smuggled pero wala pang nahuhuling malaking isda. Dapat masawata the Mismong ‘Big Fish’ to mahinto or mabawasan na ligal na pag-aangkat ng a produkto,” the senator said in a statement.

He recalled that the senators, meeting as a committee of the whole, presented a Senate investigative report last June citing “the possible involvement of certain individuals in large-scale farm smuggling.”

Gatchalian said, “Prices of various agricultural products have risen significantly, in part due to rampant smuggling of agricultural products, which has rendered local agricultural production virtually uncompetitive, which in turn undermines local farmers’ productivity.”

The senator noted findings that “smuggling not only caused undue disadvantage to local farmers, but also caused losses to the government in the form of unpaid duties and taxes. This is a major deterrent to economic growth, especially in the countryside where our farmers are based.”

Gatchalian, citing Agriculture Department data included in a report presented to Senate auditors, said about 667.5 million pesos worth of farm and fishery products were smuggled into the country, despite Customs officials finding 542 seizures in the country Value of 1.99 billion pesos of agricultural products carried out between 2019 and 2022.

Agricultural commodities smuggled into the country include sugar, corn, pork, poultry, garlic, onions, carrots, fish and cruciferous vegetables, according to data cited by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture.

Over the years, lower productivity rates have resulted in higher farm product costs to the detriment of consumers, particularly during seasonal increases in demand and considering the negative impact of typhoons and other disasters, Gatchalian said.

He said the full scope of the law should be implemented as far as Republic Act 10845, also known as the law declaring large-scale agricultural smuggling as economic sabotage, should be implemented. Despite the passage of the law in 2016, smuggled agricultural products continued to enter the country unabated, he said.