VICE presidential candidate Senator Francis Escudero has urged the government to protect local farmers and “fight the influx” of cheap agricultural products smuggled into the country.
Escudero said that he and his presidential running mate, Senator Grace Poe, will push for additional P300 billion in funds for the agriculture sector, if they win the elections on May 9.
He cited the need to increase funding for agriculture to boost the industry battered by high cost of production, extreme weather condition and poor support services from the government.
“Dapat tayo ang mag-export ng ating mga produkto kaya dapat solusyonan ang problema sa smuggling ng agricultural products galing sa ibang bansa dahil nalulugi ang ating mga magsasaka,” said Escudero.
A study by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) showed that the value of smuggled agricultural items into the country ballooned to more than $10 billion annually by year 2008 from $6 billion during the 1980s.
SEARCA also cited data from the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR) on domestic agricultural production and consumption from 1986 to 2009, which pointed to entry of illegally shipped milled rice ($1.196 billion), refined sugar ($448.2 million), beef ($428.8 million), onion ($259.55 million), pork ($117.45 million), chicken ($27.8 million), ginger ($7.8 million), and carrots and turnips ($6.5 million).
“Hindi lang mga kalamidad at kawalan ng suporta mula sa pamahalaan ang matinding kalaban ng ating mga magsasaka kung hindi rin ang walang humpay na smug gling ng mga produktong agrikultura galing sa ibang bansa tulad ng bawang, sibuyas at asukal,” said Escudero.
However, he gave assurances that anti-smuggling measures will be a priority of the government led by Poe.
“Layunin namin ni Sen. Grace na tapusin na ang paghihirap ng ating mga magsasaka at mangingisda sa pamamagitan ng mas malaking badyet mula sa pamahalaan at pagpigil sa mga nagsasamantala sa kanilang kahinaan,” he said.
As legislators, Poe and Escudero have separately filed bills aiming to curb smuggling in the country.
Poe has filed Senate Bill No. 2348, which seeks to define smuggling as an act that constitutes economic sabotage.
Escudero, on the other hand, filed SBN 422 or the Anti-Smuggling Act, which amends the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines to stop smuggling, simplify rules and facilitate trade transaction, among others.