Pangilinan: Smuggling is a big blow to our farmers and fishermen’s earnings

December 14, 2021

SENATOR Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on Tuesday said that apart from the ongoing pandemic, unabated smuggling of agricultural products is a big blow to the livelihood of the country’s farmers and fishermen.

In his opening statement during the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing today, the former food security secretary expressed his dismay over the seeming leniency of the government regarding smuggled agricultural products which paved the way for unfair market competition.

“Malaking dagok ang smuggling sa kita ng ating mga magsasaka’t mangingisda. Tinamaan na ng pandemya, tinamaan na ng sangkatutak na importasyon, tapos ngayon, pati malawakang smuggling,” Pangilinan said.

“Base sa aking naging karanasan bilang food security secretary noong 2014, hindi maaring mangyari ang smuggling kung walang kasabwat [na] malalaking sindikato ng smuggling at mga kasabwat nitong kurakot at tiwaling opisyal ng pamahalaan,” he added.

Pangilinan likened this smuggling scheme to the Pharmally fiasco wherein big businessmen are acting with impunity as they are backed by corrupt government officials.

“Hindi maaring mangyayari ang bilyon-bilyong kurakot kung hindi kasabwat ang matataas na opisyal ng gobyerno at mga sindikato o negosyanteng nagsasamantala sa kanilang pagiging malapit sa mga naka-pwestong kurakot,” Pangilinan shared.

“Tulad din sa Pharmally, pini-pwera ang kapakanan ng mga lokal na manufacturers, mga frontliners, mga trabaho para sa ating mga kababayan,” he added.

According to the lawmaker, his office received complaints from local farmers, alleging that the smuggled products are stored in warehouses in Divisoria Market in Manila and Carbon Market in Cebu City.

“Sino ang may-ari ng mga warehouses na ito? Sino ang mga kumuha ng mga cold storage facilities para malagyan ng smuggled na mga gulay? Sino ang may-ari ng mga cold storage facilities na ito,” the senator asked.

The rampant smuggling of agricultural products would not have happened if different agencies like the Bureau of Customs, Philippine National Police, National Bureau of Investigation, and Department of Agriculture observed prudent intelligence and investigative work, the lawmaker said.

While dismayed, Pangilinan proposed recommendations to curb this extensive smuggling of agricultural products, including replicating the best practices his previous office had put in place.

“Noong panahon natin bilang food security secretary, nagtalaga tayo ng inter-agency task force, kasama ang NBI, PNP, DA, at ang Office of the President at hinabol natin ang mga sangkot sa smuggling at pilit nating pinagbubukas ang mga warehouse,” he manifested.

“Nagsampa tayo ng mga kaso sa ilang mga empleyado ng gobyerno sa ilalim ng ating tanggapan kasama ang mga traders. Sinuspinde ang mga lisensya nila para ipakita na talagang mayroong ngipin ang ating mga law enforcement agencies laban sa katiwalian at sa hindi tamang palakad,” Pangilinan added.

For the senator, it is high time for the government to observe due diligence in terms of putting in place anti-smuggling practices as these will not only benefit local farmers and fishermen, but also to consumers.

“Napakahalagang protektahan at suportahan natin ang sektor ng agrikultura at mangingisda dahil sa totoo lang kapag binigyan natin sila ng suporta, gaganda ang kanilang ani, dadami ang supply ng pagkain, bababa ang presyo ng pagkain sa merckdo. Lahat tayo makikinabang at mawawala na ang gutom,” Pangilinan said.

Later on in the hearing, Pangilinan compelled various government agencies, particularly the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), to shed light on how two container vans of Korean strawberries equivalent to 50,000 kilos entered the country with ornamental plants as its initial declaration.

This after the League of Associations at the La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Areas, through its spokesperson Augusta Balanoy, submitted to the Senate a position paper opposing the importation of Korean strawberries.

“We want an official response doon sa ornamental plants ang nakalagay pero ang pumasok [dito sa bansa] ay Korean strawberries,” Pangilinan told BPI representative Ariel Bayot.

The senator also demanded the agency to release the names of the importers of these smuggled Korean strawberries, as well as questioned how these importers secured a permit from the government. 

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