WIth imported agricultural products flooding the local market, Sen. Cynthia Villar renewed her call to protect the farmers and run after the smugglers of agricultural products who appeared to be “untouchable.”
Villar, chairperson of the Senate committee on agriculture and food, urged the government to strictly implement the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Law of 2016 (Republic Act No. 10845).
She said the law provides harsher penalties to serve as a deterrent to smuggling activities. She said violators will face a penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of twice the market value of the smuggled agricultural product and the aggregate amount of the taxes, duties and other charges avoided.
The law, Villar said, also Intends to protect and promote the productivity of the agriculture sector and the farmers from corrupt traders and importers linked to the perennial problem of smuggling in the agriculture sector.”
She cited the policy of the State to advance and safeguard the agriculture sector from unscrupulous individuals or dummy corporations, who by the sheer volume of their illegal importation of agricultural products, significantly affect the production, availability of supply, and stability of prices.”
She stressed that the illegal importation of agricultural products has been inimical to the production and accessibility of food supply and steadiness of their cost. It also threatened the country’s food security.
“This problem of rampant smuggling also continues to undermine the country’s ability to attain food self-sufficiency,” Villar said.
“The “never-ending” entry of smuggled products into our market effectively manipulates the prices of agricultural products by lowering them down, and adversely affects the income and livelihood of food producers especially our farmers who belong to the country’s poorest sector,” she added.
Because of lack of satisfactory return on investments, Villar lamented that food producers are being discouraged from continuing their production.
“They cannot compete with the low costs of smuggled agricultural products like pork, chicken, fish, and vegetables such as garlic, onions and carrots and other vegetable imports from China.
“This will eventually lead to the demise of our local agricultural industries, and hence, sabotage our economy,” she pointed out, adding that the “economic saboteur” deserve to be severely punished under the new law.
During a recent Senate hearing on agricultural smuggling, the League of Associations at the La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Areas disclosed that the massive proliferation of smuggled vegetables amounted to P2.5-million monetary losses per day on carrots alone.