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Speaker Romualdez to smuggled good traders: Spare abused Pinoys

February 23, 2023 Jester P. Manalastas 289 views

SPEAKER  Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez led the House of Representatives in  commending the government’s intensified and relentless campaign against smuggling.

In a statement, Romualdez expressed gratitude to some law enforcement agencies for heeding his call to raid warehouses suspected of hoarding onions and garlic.

“Kinausap natin ang ating law enforcement agencies para i-raid ang warehouses na hinihinalang nasa likod ng hoarding ng sibuyas at bawang. Ito ang nagpapahirap sa taong-bayan na dahilan ng inflation at pagtaas sa presyo ng mga bilihin,” Romualdez said.

The inter-agency task force led by the Bureau of Customs (BoC) immediately delivered results in the fight against hoarding of onions and garlic to the House of Representatives.

“Inaasahan natin na magtutuloy-tuloy ang kampanyang ito laban sa mga mapagsamantala,” he added.

The BOC, under the newly-minted leadership of Commissioner Bienvenido Rubio, reported the discovery of around P150 million worth of imported onions and garlic stored in 24 separate locations–many of them warehouses–in the cities of Manila and Malabon.

“I reiterate my warning to these evil hoarders and unscrupulous businessmen. We are breathing down your necks. Tuldukan na ninyo na ang inyong mga gawain na nagpapahirap sa ating mga kababayan,” Romualdez said.

It can be recalled that Romualdez called for the crackdown as he stressed the importance of protecting the welfare not only of Filipino consumers but of the farmers as well by ensuring the sustainability of the local onion and garlic industry.

He pointed out that smuggling of agricultural products poses a significant threat to these goals, as it causes artificial price increases, significant losses to the government’s revenue, and undermines the competitiveness of local farmers.

Carrying Letters of Authority (LOA) from Rubio based on confirmed intelligence report of possible smuggling and hoarding activities, the composite team that included operatives from the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), agents of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service-Manila International Container Port (CIIS-MICP) raided the warehouses.

An ongoing inquiry by the House committee on agriculture and food chaired by Quezon Rep. Wilfrido Mark Enverga has linked the recent spikes in the price of onion and garlic to unscrupulous traders who are hoarding such products to create an artificial supply shortage.

In its latest hearing, the committee learned that this artificial shortage is sometimes used as an excuse to facilitate the importation of onions, which further hurt local farmers. The inquiry was launched at Romualdez’s behest.

“Mabigat at nagsasanga-sanga ang mga problema na dulot ng hoarding. Nandiyan ang inflation, mga pasakit sa mga magsasaka at konsyumer, at kahirapan. Kaya lalabanan natin ito hanggang sa huli sa tulong ng BOC at lahat ng ating mga ahensiya,” the Speaker said.

The BOC hasn’t been focusing solely on hoarded agricultural products. On Tuesday, it reported the confiscation of P1.5 billion worth of counterfeit luxury or branded goods.

The contraband was seized during an inspection at a storage facility in Pasay City

“Your days are numbered.”

Speaker Romualdez aired this warning earlier against unscrupulous traders and hoarders of onion and garlic suspected of being behind the continued high prices of these agricultural products in the market.

“We received information that these people are hoarding onion, and more recently even garlic, to create an artificial scarcity in supply and induce price increases,” Speaker Romualdez said.

He noted reports that despite the ongoing harvest season and the entry of imported onions retail prices remained high.

Speaker Romualdez said he has instructed the House Committee on Agriculture and Food to conduct an investigation and, if warranted by the evidence, recommend the filing of appropriate criminal charges against the people behind this scheme.

“This is economic sabotage,” Speaker Romualdez said. According to Speaker Romualdez, the House panel “will study the option of recommending to the President the calibrated importation of onion and garlic as a means to force these unscrupulous individuals to unload their stocks and drive down the prices to alleviate the burden on the consumers.”

However, Speaker Romualdez pointed out that such importation should not in any way prejudice the welfare of the local farmers. “It is very important to ensure that any importation should consist of such quantity and be done well ahead of the harvest season to avoid any adverse effect on the livelihood of our local farmers,” Speaker Romualdez stressed.

Apart from the investigation, Speaker Romualdez wants daily monitoring of the prices of onion and garlic in the local markets. “People are still trying to recover from the pandemic. The last thing we need is an unreasonable rise in food prices,” Speaker Romualdez said.