JV wants economic sabotage raps vs agricultural smugglers

December 12, 2022 Camille P. Balagtas 94 views

AGRICULTURAL smugglers must be slapped with non-bailable charges of economic sabotage to put their illegal activities to a halt, Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito said on Monday.

Ejercito made the remark as a farmers’ group warned the government that more than 20 smugglers are now bringing in white and red onions, rice, and frozen meat products illegally to the Philippines.

“Dapat nang buwagin at matauhan ang mga grupo na ito. Sampahan natin sila ng economic sabotage charges dahil walang bail ito. Nakakapinsala na sila sa kabuhayan ng ating mga kababayang magsasaka,” the Senator said.

“As the principal author of the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Law, nakalulungkot itong balita na marami pa ring agri-smuggler na nag-o-operate sa ating bansa. It’s been six to seven years since the law was passed, ngunit parang nabalewala lang ang batas,” he added.

In a radio interview, Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) president Rosendo So said there are numerous new smugglers who were not included in the list of agricultural smugglers previously submitted to the Senate.

The group is currently working with the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Bureau of Customs (BOC) in pressing economic sabotage charges against individuals involved in bringing in P30 million worth of smuggled white onions that were recently confiscated at the Manila International Container Port.

Ejercito said the national government needs to fully implement the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act, which he principally authored during his first term in the Senate, to address the rampant agricultural smuggling in the country.

In previous hearings on the DA’s sugar fiasco, he blasted agriculture officials for failing to implement the said measure and promoting excessive importation, which continues to harm small farmers.

“We passed the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling law, classifying large-scale agricultural smuggling as a heinous crime and an economic sabotage. Kaso panay import na lang tayo. Kung hindi smuggled, excessively imported naman ang mga produkto,” he said.

Earlier today, the lawmaker from San Juan joined Senate Ways and Means Committee chairperson Sen. Win Gatchalian and customs officials at the BOC headquarters in Manila to conduct an ocular inspection and discussion on the agency’s modernization program.

He said the BOC’s modernization efforts should be geared toward curbing agricultural smuggling and addressing the alleged widespread corruption within the agency.

“Our aim is to improve needed revenues for the significant programs. Mahalaga rin na mabantayan ang modernization program na ito dahil laganap pa rin ang smuggling sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng bansa,” Ejercito said.

“Ang pagwakas sa agricultural smuggling, maging sa malawakang katiwalian sa BOC, ang dapat maging pulo’t dulo ng modernization ng ating mga customs operations. We will be vigilant,” the lawmaker said.