January 29, 2023

Stakeholders in the vegetable industry continue their call on the national government, especially the Office of the President, to take action against the rampant illegal entry of vegetables and other crops in the country. 
Members of the League of Associations at the La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Post on Feb. 14 mounted a caravan bearing tarpaulins on their vehicles calling for a stop in smuggling of vegetables and other crops, particularly from China, as they went around the main highway of La Trinidad, Benguet. 
Vegetable trader Linda Balanggoy said smuggling has always been rampant but it has become more brazen in the previous months.
“Before, the smuggled vegetables were brought out only at night. Now, it has become normal that even at day time it is being traded,” Balanggoy said.
Recently, the joint task force against vegetable smuggling led by the Bureau of Customs seized six containers of misdeclared vegetable cargos in Subic Bay worth P30 million.
The BOC reported the containers were labeled as mixed dimsum from China but were later discovered as assorted vegetables. A warrant seizure and detention of the cargos were issued in violation of the Customs Modernization and Tariff’s Act and Department of Agriculture Order 18-2000.
Benguet caretaker Eric Yap, in a statement said, he is in coordination with the BOC for the continuous and vigilant monitoring of entry of smuggled vegetables.   
Yap also said individuals who are suspected to be in cahoots with smugglers were already relieved.
LTVATP spokesperson Agot Balanoy said around 38 million kilos of illegally imported carrots enter the various markets monthly. She said they have recorded 40 percent lower volume of orders in the past months due to smuggling.
“We really feel helpless. Aside from the ongoing Senate inquiry, we have already requested help from other government agencies to help stop these illegally imported vegetables to enter the market. However, it seems the smuggling syndicate is more powerful that illegal imports continue to flood the market and these happen in broad daylight,” Balanoy said.
She said the farmers are looking at P2.5M loss a day due to the lesser volume of orders from the various markets.
Benguet Vegetable Truckers and Traders Association President Rudy Bulawan said a permanent solution is needed to stop the rampant vegetable smuggling.
“Why is it that smuggling cannot be stopped? It’s like the government approach is ningas cogon, today it’s gone and then it’s back again. We cannot even compete with the legal importation of vegetables but with smuggling, it is clear that it is a violation, why is it still continuing to operate?” Bulawan said. 
Meanwhile, Lawyer Richard Kilaan of the Lawyers for Farmers (LFF) group said illegal importation is just a tip of the iceberg of the problems hounding farmers.
The LFF is a group composed of lawyers and other volunteers for farmers’ rights and legal initiatives. It is a group in defending the rights of farmers, with the advocacy to inform, educate, and empower the farmers in today’s society.
Among the advocacies of LFF are to assist the farmers in litigation processes, regularly conduct legal awareness training, and actively participate in policy intervention and campaigns in order for farmers to benefit and have equal access to justice. – Ofelia C. Empian