■ Ofelia C. Empian
Farmers and traders in La Trinidad, Benguet decried the entry of boxes of smuggled carrots and potatoes in key market areas bearing the mark ‘A.B.C. Baguio’.
In a statement, the League of Associations at the La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Areas, Inc. said the carrots and potatoes are not either from Benguet or from Baguio, but from a foreign country.
They alleged these boxes were smuggled from China, as some of them were confiscated by the Bureau of Customs on Nov. 10 in Olongapo and Zambales.
“We denounce the rampant smuggling of vegetables and other agricultural products that is killing the local vegetable industry, the farmers, and the other stakeholders whose livelihood is heavily anchored on agriculture,” the league said.
League representative Augusta Balanoy said they have forwarded their concern to the executives of the regional and central offices of the Department of Agriculture.
Balanoy said the DA Anti-Smuggling Division will lead the formation of an anti-smuggling task force involving agencies concerned.
“In the previous administration, there was an anti-smuggling task force created, but now there is none,” Balanoy said.
On Dec. 15, a roundtable discussion on the issues surrounding the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement was initiated by the league and attended by members of the municipal councils’ committee on agriculture and municipal agriculturists of the 13 towns of the province.
The concerned agencies discussed the effects and possible solutions to the implementation of the RCEP.
The RCEP is seen to allow a better flow of trade and lower to zero tariffs on some commodities being traded among the 15 participating countries – the 10 ASEAN member states, and trading partners China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.
The agreement allowed the legal entry of several fresh agricultural products which include cabbage, potatoes, carrots, lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, garlic, and onions. Six of these, the league said, are being produced in the Cordillera.
Balanoy said another discussion is scheduled in January 2024 together with officials concerned national offices.