INFUSING more funds to help lift the ailing agriculture sector will be more meaningful for farmers if stricter policies are put in place to fight the influx of cheap agricultural products smuggled into the country, vice presidential frontrunner Sen. Francis Escudero said.
Escudero is pushing for additional P300 billion in funds for the agriculture sector to boost the industry battered by high cost of production, extreme weather condition and poor support services from the government.
But Escudero said increasing the budget allocation of the sector, which comprised 60 percent of the country’s poorest, would be useless if farmers were not able to sell their yield at competitive prices because of smuggling.
“We should be exporting our agri products which is why the problem of smuggling of agri products needs to be addressed. Smuggling results in huge losses for our farmers,” Escudero said.
A study by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture showed the value of smuggled agricultural items into the country ballooned to more than $10 billion annually in 2008 from $6 billion during the 1980s.
Searca also cited data from the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Agricultural Research on domestic agricultural production and consumption from 1986 to 2009, which pointed to the 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).
“Our farmers suffer not only from calamities and lack of government support but also from unabated smuggling of agricultural products such as sugar, onions and garlic,” the veteran lawmaker said.
Escudero assured that anti-smuggling measures would be his priority. He is the running mate of Grace Poe.
“Our mission is clear: end the suffering of our farmers and fishermen through a bigger budget allocation for the agricultural sector and eradicate smuggling and other forms of fraud and illicit activities,” Escudero said.
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, meanwhile, filed Senate Bill No. 442, or the Anti-Smuggling Act, which seeks to amend the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines to stop smuggling, simplify rules and facilitate trade transaction, among others.
It later became part of SBN 2968, the bicameral committee report of which is awaiting approval from both chambers of Congress.