Vice presidential aspirant Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero yesterday said more funds would be infused to the country’s ailing agriculture sector to help them combat smuggling should he and Sen. Grace Poe get elected in May 9, 2016, elections.
Escudero said he and his presidential running mate are committed to pushing for an additional P300 billion in funds for the agriculture sector to boost the industry battered by high cost of production and extreme weather condition.
According to the senator, increasing the budget allocation of the sector, which is comprised of 60 percent of the country’s poorest, would be useless if farmers won’t be able to sell their yield at competitive prices because of smuggling.
“We should be the one exporting our products that’s why we should find a solution to the rampant smuggling of agricultural products from other countries because our farmers are the ones on the losing end,” Escudero said.
“Our farmers are not only confronted by calamities and lack of government support, they also had to contend with the rampant smuggling activities particularly with garlic, onion and sugar,” he said.
Citing a study by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), Escudero said 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 pointed out 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).
Anti- smuggling legislation will be a priority of the government led by Poe, Escudero said.
“That is our goal to help our farmers, fishermen. By giving them a bigger budget and preventing smugglers from taking advantage of their weakness,” he said.