BENGUET Rep. Eric Yap has urged the Bureau of Customs (BoC) to file airtight, non-bailable cases against big-time smugglers of agricultural goods to send a strong message against illegal traders who continue to defy the law and deprive Filipino farmers of their livelihood.
Yap said the BOC, for one, should act fast in filing criminal cases against the consignees of shipments of agricultural products worth P20.2 million that were believed to be smuggled and intercepted by customs authorities at the Port of Subic last week.
“Halagang P20.193 million – ito ang nasabat na agri products na muntik na makalabas ng port at mabenta sa ating local markets. Higit rin sa halagang ito ang muntik nang maging estimated loss ng ating farmers na nagpapakahirap na itanim, anihin, at dalhin ang mga agri produce sa ating mga hapag kainan,” said Yap, who is the congressional representative of the lone district of Benguet, the country’s major vegetable producing province.
Last week, the BOC-Port of Subic, in coordination with the Department of Agriculture (DA), intercepted a shipment which were declared as assorted foodstuff but actually contained frozen carrots.
Another seized shipment was declared as lobster balls and crabsticks, but the BOC discovered that they contained fresh red and white onions.
“Hindi na pwede na puro huli na lang ang nababalitaan natin, pero walang napapakulong? Wala pa rin na smuggler naco-convict, kahit patuloy at harap-harapan na silang illegal na nagpapasok ng agri products sa bansa. They’re not even trying to conceal these shipments anymore. Why? Wala naman kasing napapakulong,” Yap noted.
Under Republic Act 10845, large-scale agricultural smuggling, such as the illegal importation of sugar, corn, pork , poultry, garlic, onion, carrots , fish and cruciferous vegetables worth at least P1 million is considered as economic sabotage.
“We are urging the BOC to file a case against those involved sa pagpasok ng mga container shipments na ito sa bansa. Bigyan natin ng sample ang agri smugglers, ipakita na may ngipin ang batas natin. More than one million ang halaga nito, dapat no bail. Pangalanan lahat, kasuhan, at ipakulong,” Yap said.
Yap said he will raise this issue in the forthcoming Technical Working Group (TWG) meeting of the House Committee on Agriculture and Food and will push for the swift approval of his measure, House Bill No. 319, which seeks to increasing the penalties on vegetable smuggling.
He will also urge Congress to act on House Resolution No. 108 that he filed with Davao City 1st District Rep. Paolo Duterte, which calls for a legislative inquiry into the continued smuggling of agricultural products. “Hindi tayo titigil hangga’t walang napapanagot,” Yap added.