Bill redefining, seeking stiffer penalties vs agri smuggling, hoarding reaches Senate floor

After Senator Cynthia Villar sponsored Committee Report No. 18 under Senate Bill 2432, the bill redefining and imposing stiffer penalties against acts of agricultural smuggling and hoarding reached the Senate plenary on Monday.

“Smuggling is one of the reasons why many of our farmers continue to live in poverty. The illegal entry of agricultural products threatens their livelihood and the welfare of two-thirds of our population who depend on agriculture,” Villar said in her sponsorship speech.

“Illicit trade exposes consumers to unregulated products often manufactured in unsanitary conditions. 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,” she added.

Villar, chairperson of Senate Agriculture, Food and Agrarian Reform Committee, citing the statement of the Samahang Industiya ng Agrikultura, said that the Philippine government was losing at least P200 billion in revenues a year due to smuggling.

“Smuggling brings about unfair competition for locally produced goods because it floods the market of cheaper agricultural products; it puts undue risk to our consumer’s health, deprives the government of revenues from uncollected taxes and customs duties, encourages corruption and threatens the rule of law,” she went on.

Last week, four Senate committees released Committee Report No. 18, which proposed that acts of agricultural smuggling and hoarding should be considered economic sabotage when the value of each agricultural and fishery product was at least P1 million.

The committee report also pushed for a life imprisonment penalty and a fine equal to three times the value of the agricultural and fishery products subject to the crime as economic sabotage on anyone who commits, aids, or abets the commission of prohibited acts.

Under the proposed measure, economic sabotage in agriculture was defined as any act or activity that disrupts the economy by creating artificial shortages, promoting excessive importation, manipulating prices and supply, evading payment or underpayment of tariffs and customs duties, threatening local production and food security, gaining excessive or exorbitant profits by exploiting situations, creating scarcity, and entering into agreements that defeat fair competition to the prejudice of the public.

Under the prohibited acts, the crimes of agricultural smuggling, hoarding, profiteering, and cartel as economic sabotage are committed when the value of each agricultural and fishery product subject to the crime is at least P1 million, using the Daily Price Index, under Section 19 of the proposed law, computed at the time the crime was committed.

The bill also seeks the creation of an Anti-Agricultural Economic Sabotage Council, which will be under and chaired by the President or his designated permanent representative.

The members will be composed of individuals from:

Department of Agriculture (DA); Department of Trade and Industry (DTI); Department of Justice (DOJ); Department of Finance (DOF); Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG); Department of Transportation (DOTr); Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC); and Philippine Competition Commission (PCC).

There will also be representatives from the following sectors:

Sugar; Rice and Corn; Livestock and Poultry; Vegetables and Fruits; Tobacco.

— DVM, GMA Integrated News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: