THE Senate Bill 2432 or the Anti-Agricultural Economic Sabotage Act can help eliminate illegal trade and smuggling of tobacco and other agricultural produce, Department of Agriculture (DA) Undersecretary Deogracias Victor B. Savellano said.
The official said the department strongly supports Senate Bill 2432 as it sought collaborators in the fight against illegal tobacco trade that brings P25 billion yearly in foregone revenue for government.
Savellano added the bill must be immediately approved in order to arrest the problem on tobacco smuggling as well as its serious impact against the health of minors.
“It may worsen the country’s problem on smuggling. Illicit tobacco trade reduces the effectiveness of public health policies designed to discourage smoking, with unregulated, substandard quality and non-compliant products.
It makes it easier for minors to access tobacco products and undermines the legitimate industry’s business,” according to SB 2432.
Savellano disclosed the livelihood of thousands of Filipino farmers is adversely affected by illegal agricultural trade.
Among these are farmers belonging to Philippine Tobacco Growers Association (PTGA) and the National Federation of Tobacco Farmers Association and Cooperatives (NAFTAC), which are both lobbying for the bill’s passage.
PTGA and NAFTAC have membership of around 50,000 farmers.
Speaking at the “Anti-Illicit Trade Interagency Dialogue: Protecting National Economic Interests through Greater Synergy and Cooperation,” Savellano said the DA needs collaborators in this seemingly unsurmountable task of fighting illegal trade.
“Combating such highly organized crime requires substantial resources, specialized skills and effective inter-agency cooperation which can be difficult to coordinate and sustain,” he said.
“Illicit tobacco trade often involves the movement of products across international borders, making border coordination and cooperation within the country’s jurisdiction essential,” he added.
Savellano also explained that adequate investment in training programs, modern technology and sufficient staffing levels is crucial to enhance the capacity of these agencies to combat illicit trade effectively.
The Senate bill amends the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016 or Republic Act No. 10845.
The Euromonitor reports that 16.7 percent or about 9.52 billion sticks of the total cigarette volumes sold in the Philippines comes from illegal sources as of 2022.
Illegal trade destroys tobacco industries in in Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Abra, La Union, Pangasinan, Isabela, Cagayan, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Tarlac and Occidental Mindoro.