June 22, 2024

The House Ways and Means Committee said it will support any budget or policy request to bolster government efforts to fight the rampant smuggling of agricultural products in the country.
In a statement, committee chair Joey Salceda said agricultural smuggling is a long-standing issue that will require the full efforts of the entire government.
He said the committee is focused on improving legislation on agricultural smuggling, particularly its work on the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act and its rules; the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act, which makes large-scale agricultural smuggling economic sabotage; and the joint guidelines to prevent the smuggling of agricultural products.
“We are also studying our special safeguard, anti-dumping, and countervailing duties laws to see how we can fight the deleterious effects of smuggling using amendments to these laws,” Salceda said.
He said aside from legislation, it is also part of Congress’ job to create public and political pressure to fight smuggling, thus entailing offending the feelings of some public officials.
“We in Congress are elected representatives of the people. Smuggling is a concern that rightfully elicits public outrage. It is also our responsibility to represent and convey that public outrage, so that those who are entrusted with public office can respond to public concerns. Hence, I stand by my strong words against smugglers and those who protect them in government,” he said.
He acknowledged the “laudable work” of Agriculture Sec. William Dar in the Department of Agriculture since the start of his tenure in 2019.
“I am confident that he is sincere and resolute in his drive to clean up the Department. I hope he shares my outrage over how much agricultural smuggling persists in the country,” he said.
Salceda said the committee would also exert the same amount of pressure it exerts on the DA to other agencies including the Food and Drug Administration, the Bureau of Internal Revenue, and the Bureau of Customs.
“Make no mistake: the victim of agricultural smuggling is the ordinary Filipino farmer, who tends to be among the poorest workers in the country. Agricultural smuggling is not only economic sabotage. In view of whom it harms, it is a grave moral and societal evil,” he said.
Four high-profile personalities, allegedly involved in fruits and vegetable smuggling, were recently revealed in the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III verified with the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency the names Manuel Tan who allegedly operates in Subic, Cagayan de Oro, and Batangas; Andrew Chang in Subic, Manila International Container Port (MICP), Port of Manila, and Batangas; Leah “Luz” Cruz the “Onion Queen,” who allegedly operates in MICP and Cagayan de Oro City; and a certain Jun Diamante, who allegedly smuggles agri-fishery products in Cagayan De Oro City.
NICA Sub-Task Group on Economic Intelligence focal person Director Edsel Batalla confirmed the names Sotto mentioned are on their list that includes more than 20 others. – PNA