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The ‘Good One’ has better amendments to agri-smuggling law — consumer group

February 19, 2023 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 354 views

A CONSUMER group on Sunday called for the immediate passage of Senate Bill (SB) No. 1688, filed by Senator JV Ejercito, which expands the coverage of RA 10845 or the “Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016” to include hoarding, profiteering, cartel and “other market abuses,” and said that the proposed amendments of Ejercito “are a timely intervention given the rising prices of goods like onions.”

The spokesperson of Malayang Konsyumer (MK) likewise criticized a separate but concurrent move at the Upper House adding tobacco and tobacco products as “wasteful,” stressing that the inclusion of non-essential items to the anti-smuggling measure “does not make sense and dilutes the purpose of RA 10845.”

MK Spokesperson Atty. Simoun Salinas was referring to Senate Bill 1812, proposed by Senator Lito Lapid, which seeks to insert both raw and processed tobacco products such as cigarettes to the current Anti-Smuggling Law’s short list of rice, corn, vegetables and other core household food items.

“JV is the Good One” was the slogan used by Ejercito in the 2022 national elections.

Salinas explained that “amendments aimed at improving the law should focus on offenses that are harmful to Filipino consumers and households, those crimes we consider to be large-scale and prevalent as to amount to economic sabotage. That’s why SB 1688 includes profiteering, hoarding and the like.”

There have been recent reports of a looming garlic crisis, coming months after an onion shortage which saw supplies plummet and prices skyrocket. The Philippines sources more than 90% of its garlic requirements abroad, according to farmers groups.

Ejercito’s Senate bill noted that as per figures from the Bureau of Customs, 1.2 billion pesos’ worth of food products were smuggled into the country in 2022.

MK convenor Christian Real, on the other hand, pointed out that “smuggling of essential food items is a big concern, but it’s not the only problem we need to address.”

“May supply ka nga, tinatago naman at ipinagkakait sa merkado. Hindi nga smuggled ang food items, pero ang mahal naman ng presyo dahil kontrolado ng cartel at ng mga mapagsamantala at ganid na grupo,” said the consumer advocate.

“That’s why we need to amend the law to penalize these other offenses. While doing so, let’s not muddle the measure by including tobacco and cigarettes, which has no place in RA 10845.”