May 28, 2024

The League of Associations at the La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Post is hopeful President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. will pursue the long-time bid to stop the smuggling of agricultural products into the country’s ports.

The league said it will continue to monitor the presence of smuggled vegetables in the local markets and report it to proper authorities for action, especially with the President in command of the Department of Agriculture.

Augusta Balanoy, league spokesperson, said they are thankful for the investigation earlier done by the Senate, which revealed a list of government officials allegedly involved in smuggling.

The validated list was an intelligence report submitted to the Senate Committee of the Whole led by former Senate President Vicente Sotto III, who turned over the list to Marcos Jr.

Balanoy, who was invited to represent the local vegetable farmers in the series of meetings of the Senate committee, said the league was not part of the investigation and validation of the list.

“We would like to clarify and reiterate that the reports we presented during the Senate hearings were raw information, not validated, which is why we submitted it to the Senate for investigation, verification, and validation,” Balanoy said.

Balanoy urged Benguet officials to be active in monitoring the Senate’s ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

“The RCEP is another free trade agreement that may be used to allow the entry of fresh vegetables in the country. It’s not clear if they will add fresh vegetables because they used general terms in the agreement,” she said.

Under the current Asian Free Trade Area (AFTA), the entry of fresh vegetables in the country is not allowed.

The RCEP is seen to make importation and exportation easier for member-states. The members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are part of the RCEP along with China, Japan, Australia, South Korea, and New Zealand.

Former President Rodrigo Duterte has ratified the RCEP in September 2021, but it failed to hurdle the Senate in the 18th Congress. The 19th Congress is set to convene on July 25.

Aside from the stoppage of smuggling, the league has urged the new administration to regulate the continuous increase of farm inputs and find local-based solutions.

It also urged the government to regulate and monitor the continuous increase of fuel since it is affecting the transportation of vegetables and other crops. – Ofelia C. Empian