Hoarding, profiteering to be punished in JV amendments to anti-agricultural smuggling law

February 12, 2023 People's Tonight 132 views

WITH consumers battered by the rising prices of agricultural staples like onions, amendments to Republic Act No. (RA) 10845 or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016 have been proposed by Senate Deputy Majority Leader Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito in Senate Bill No. (SB) 1688 to make it more effective against the smuggling of agricultural goods.

In the explanatory note of the said bill, Ejercito stressed that “our ultimate goal is safeguarding our farmers, consumers and the agricultural sector, and attaining the goal of food security for the country.”

The senator lamented that “the country has been experiencing the highest price of onion in history: an all-time high of 700 pesos per kilogram.”

“This was made worse by reports of smuggling and price manipulations by unscrupulous people.”

Under the proposed measure, aside from smuggling, the hoarding, profiteering, and cartels of sugar, corn, pork, poultry, garlic, onion, carrots, fish and cruciferous vegetables in the amount of one million pesos, or rice in the amount of ten million pesos will be considered economic sabotage.

SB 1688 now also punishes hoarding, profiteering, and the cartels involved in agricultural products with imprisonment of not less than 17 years.

Those found guilty of the said offenses will also be fined twice the fair value of the profiteered, hoarded, and cartelled agricultural product.

The aggregate amount of the taxes, duties and other charges avoided, on the other hand, shall be imposed on the officers of dummy corporations, nongovernment organizations, associations, cooperatives, or single proprietorships who knowingly sell, lend, lease, assign, consent or allow the unauthorized use of their import permits for purposes of profiteering, hoarding, and cartelling.

Ejercito explained that “the difficulty of the country to cope with other countries in terms of food security is apparent in the rising prices of basic commodities and the scarcity and shortage of such.”

“Even President Bongbong Marcos recognized the widespread smuggling with his recent call for significant reforms in the bureaucracy in order to thwart and curtail the proliferation of the same.”

In the recent Economist’s 2021 Global Food Security Index (GFSI), the Philippines ranked 64th out of 113 countries in terms of four dimensions of food security: food availability, food accessibility, food utilization, and stability.

Meanwhile, Senator Lito Lapid in his SB No. 1812 seeks to amend the same anti-agri smuggling law to include tobacco and cigarettes into the list composed of essential food items like rice, onions, sugar, meat, among others.