Senator Win Gatchalian has called on all agencies concerned to go after smugglers of agricultural commodities and protect local farmers from unwarranted competition.
“Kaliwa’t kanan ang mga nakukumpiskang produktong smuggled pero wala pang nahuhuling malaking isda. Dapat masawata ang mismong mga 'big fish' upang mahinto o mabawasan na ang iligal na pag-aangkat ng mga produkto (Smuggled products are being confiscated left and right but no big fish has been caught yet. The 'big fish' themselves must be harmed in order to stop or reduce the illegal importation of products),” Gatchalian said.
The Senate Committee of the Whole even released a Senate investigation report in June last year citing certain individuals’ possible involvement in large-scale agricultural smuggling.
“Prices of various farm products have gone up considerably due in part to rampant smuggling of agricultural products that have rendered local farm output practically uncompetitive, which, in turn, undermines the productivity of local farmers,” Gatchalian noted.
“Aside from causing undue disadvantage to local farmers, smuggling also causes losses to the government in terms of unpaid duties and taxes. It is a major deterrent to economic growth, particularly in the countryside where our farmers are located,” he added.
Data from the agriculture department indicated that between 2019 and 2022 alone, about P667.5 million worth of agriculture and fishery products were smuggled into the country even as the Bureau of Customs (BOC) conducted 542 seizure cases involving P1.99 billion worth of agricultural products. Farm commodities being smuggled into the country include sugar, corn, pork, poultry, garlic, onion, carrots, fish, and cruciferous vegetables as per data cited by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture.
Over the years, lower productivity rates have led to higher cost of farm products to the detriment of consumers, especially during a seasonal uptick in demand and taking into consideration the negative impact of typhoons and other calamities, Gatchalian pointed out.
He emphasized that the full extent of the law should be implemented as far as Republic Act 10845, also known as An Act Declaring Large-Scale Agricultural Smuggling as Economic Sabotage, is concerned. Despite the law’s enactment six years ago in 2016, smuggled agricultural products continue to enter the country unabated, he ended.