The Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food has recommended the creation of a presidential task force and special courts to focus on cases of smuggling of agricultural products, following the recent spike in the price of onions.
The anti-agricultural smuggling task force will be placed directly under the control and supervision of the Office of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who is also concurrent Agriculture Secretary.
“This will protect not only the onion industry but the entire agricultural sector,” said Sen. Cynthia Villar, who chairs the committee.
This developed as the P125-per-kilo suggested retail price of onions imposed by the Department of Agriculture has yet to be followed in some markets in Metro Manila.
According to a GMA News TV report, local white onions are going for P100 to P200 a kilo, while imported ones are sold at P150 to P250.
Local red onions are being sold at P240 to P320, while imported ones go from P130 to P320, the TV report added.
Vendors indicated in the report that they could not follow the suggested retail price because they still bought their onion stocks at higher prices.
Agriculture Assistant Secretary Kristine Evangelista said the DA has given out letters of inquiry to obtain the names of suppliers who continued to sell their onion stocks at higher prices.
Meanwhile, the Senate Agriculture Committee Report No. 25 calls for special courts that will hear cases of agricultural smuggling.
A special team of prosecutors from the Department of Justice will focus on similar cases, and thus would expedite cases of economic sabotage filed against smugglers and their cohorts, the report added.
During the Senate hearing on the skyrocketing costs of onions in the local market, it was established that farmers did not gain from the spike in the price of onions.
Instead, they incurred losses following the importation of onions, the arrival of which coincided with the harvest of local onions.
The report also suggested that profiteering from agricultural products and hoarding them, like smuggling, will be considered economic sabotage.
The committee also reminded the DA not to import onions and other agricultural products during harvest season.