May 6, 2012
Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, and Co-chairman of the Agriculture and Fisheries Congressional Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization (COCAFM), calls on the Bureau of Customs (BoC) to “shore up the drive against rampant smuggling of agricultural products” by making transparent importation information contained in the Inward Foreign Manifest (IFM).
The IFM is a list containing details about the products being imported into the Philippines, such as the importer’s name, the source country, the shipping vessel, and the date of arrival. Currently, only the Bureau of Customs has access to this information, making it easy for unscrupulous parties within the agency to get involved in smuggling.
The Alyansa ng Agrikultura, a coalition of 42 federations and organizations representing all major agricultural sectors, has been advocating the automatic transmittal of the IFM from the Bureau of Customs to the Department of Agriculture since its establishment in 2003.
The practice was done for a few years, then ended in 2009.
According to Agriwatch chair Ernesto Ordoñez, “The automatic transmittal of the IFM to the DA has not been restored since.”
Senator Pangilinan expresses support for Alyansa’s statement, saying, “We support the position taken by the Alyansa. The IFM should be made available to the DA so that smuggling can be curbed. If there is fear that the information may be used by unscrupulous individuals or groups for their own selfish ends, then safeguards must be put in place on the level of the cabinet secretaries to ensure that such information is made available only to key individuals.”
“Ultimately, transparency is still the better approach to ensure accountability,” Pangilinan points out.
According to Alyansa’s recommendation, the IFM is best transmitted to the DA at least two days before the product’s arrival. This will allow the DA to look into the product being imported, the kinds of permits that the importer possesses, and other details about the importer. According to Alyansa, if an imported product does not have an import permit, “[the DA] can then make arrangements to confiscate the smuggled products and charge the smuggler the moment the product arrives.”
Pangilinan emphasizes, “The IFM cannot be hidden and treated like a best-kept secret. It only leads to non-accountability and abuse.”