Really go after agri smugglers, hoarders — solon

August 19, 2023 Jester P. Manalastas 166 views

A neophyte solon called for the active enforcement of the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act to punish smugglers, hoarders, price manipulators and government employees and officials who take part in this crime.

AGRI Party-list Representative Wilbert Lee made the call amid mounting evidence of the potential hoarding of agricultural goods like rice and onions.

Likewise, he asked Congress to fast track the approval of a pending measure strengthening the law.

“When these criminals hoard vital agri products like rice and onions to increase prices and earn larger profits, they are profiting off the hunger of our impoverished countrymen,” Lee said.

Lee is the author of House Bill No. 5742 or the “Anti-Agricultural Smuggling and Economic Sabotage Act of 2016.”.

HB No. 5742 aims to (1) include the other unlawful act of market abuses; and (2) modify a stricter penalty to those public officials or employees who tolerate and protect large-scale agricultural smuggling, and other market abuses, namely but not limited to, hoarding, profiteering, or cartel in the country.

The penalty of up to life imprisonment and a fine of up to twice the fair value of the smuggled agricultural product or the product subject to hoarding, profiteering, or cartel and the aggregate amount of the taxes, duties and other charges avoided plus interest at the prevailing legal rate shall be imposed on any person who violates the law.

House Speaker Martin Romualdez earlier said the House would prioritize the passage of the proposed amendments to the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act in Second Regular Session of the 19th Congress after the prices of onions surged last month.

In a related development, Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo, in a memorandum transmitted to President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., said there is “substantial” evidence that a cartel is behind rising onion prices.

In a press conference, Department of Agriculture (DA) Assistant Secretary and deputy spokesman Rex Estoperez announced that the agency’s Inspectorate and Enforcement group would inspect warehouses amid allegations of manipulation of stocks to justify increases in retail prices of rice.