Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said Monday he will disclose the names of high-ranking government officials linked in the smuggling of agricultural products coming from China during the 3rd Senate hearing scheduled on April 12.
“We will validate the extent of vegetable smuggling and reveal those involved at the next Senate hearing,” said Sotto, who is running for vice president in tandem with Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson.
Lacson said rampant smuggling “has been pestering the agricultural sector.”
During Monday’s Kapihan ng Samahang Plaridel media forum moderated by veteran journalist Jullie Yap-Daza, Sotto said they have the names of those dubbed “untouchables” involved in the illegal importation of vegetables from China.
“This is the third hearing already and we would like to come up with a committee report as soon as possible. Even while we campaign, we’re trying to squeeze time for this is part of our job and so that the Ombudsman can look into the matters at hand,” he said.
Sotto said they will invoke parliamentary immunity in case they are fed with the wrong names.
Lacson said they encounter issues about the agricultural sector when they visit different provinces during their campaign.
“It is a very common, pestering issue if you go out and talk to different sectors especially farmers and fisherfolk. Agricultural smuggling is really hurting the local agricultural sector, so it is good that this is being discussed so we can bring it up to those concerned, particularly people from the Bureau of Customs and the Department of Agriculture,” Lacson said.
During the second hearing of the Committee of the Whole on March 28, the League of Associations at the La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Post public relations officer, Agot Balonoy, said they are incurring huge losses due to rampant smuggling.
“Our regular daily order of carrots declined by up to 40 percent or equivalent to P2.5 million per day since last year. Retailers and consumers now prefer to buy smuggled carrots from China,” Balonoy said.
United Broiler Raisers Association president Elias Jose Inciong also accused the DA of being pro-importation.
The DA previously said it will file charges against big-time personalities in the government if they are found involved in the proliferation of smuggled agricultural products.