The Bureau of Customs went on heightened alert against imported agricultural products following the seizure of smuggled vegetables worth P4.7 million during a raid at two warehouses in Manila.
“This is still in line with our mandate to protect the country’s borders against the illegal importation of goods. We’re making good our promise of strengthening border control and we’re intensifying efforts to assure the safety of these products,” said Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence Group Raniel Ramiro.
The bureau said unsafe, smuggled vegetables and meat and other products intended for the holiday season are expected to arrive during the “Ber months.”
On Wednesday, Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service assigned in North Harbor raided two warehouses on Carmen Planas and Bilbao Streets after confirming that three market stalls got their imported vegetables from those establishments.
They found imported red onions, carrots, ginger, garlic, broccoli, red and yellow onions at the warehouses.
Lawmakers from the House of Representatives and the Senate earlier sought a congressional inquiry into smuggled vegetables flooding local markets which some said could expose consumers and farmers to unchecked plant diseases.
In House Resolution 2263, the Makabayan Bloc in the lower chamber urged the House committee on agriculture and food to look into the matter, citing reports on the presence of small warehouses near
Divisoria where imported vegetables were supposedly stored and are released in the markets when Benguet vegetable prices increase.
“Vegetable disposers at the La Trinidad Trading Post in Benguet said that orders have drastically dropped due to the proliferation of smuggled carrots in Metro Manila, Cebu, and Cagayan de Oro, among other cities,” the resolution stated.
“From the previous 100 sacks of carrots a day, vegetable disposers said they are only able to dispose of at least 30 sacks of carrots a day,” it added.
At the Upper House, Sen. Francis Pangilinan himself sought a Senate probe, saying “Smuggled agricultural produce may contain invasive pests and host various diseases. The exposure of other food products to these goods poses a serious threat to the health of our people, the productivity of the agriculture sector, and our country’s food security,” he said.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar has warned the public against buying smuggled vegetables due to the possible pesticide residue even as his agency has ordered the confiscation of all shipments that
entered the country without the necessary permits.