AN industry group on Thursday lauded the signing of the new law-declaring agricultural smuggling as economic sabotage.
Rosendo Go of the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag) said the group is “hopeful” the signing of Republic Act (RA) 10845 will pave the way for President-elect Rodrigo R. Duterte’s campaign against illegal trade.
“Smuggling has flourished and continues to thrive under the current government, and we are hoping this new antismuggling law will complement the commitment of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to combat smuggling,” So said.
The industry leader said RA 10845, which considers the smuggling of agricultural commodities as economic sabotage, was signed by President Aquino on Monday, May 23.
“The agriculture industry has long lobbied for the passage of this act, as we believe this would serve as an effective deterrent to smuggling of agricultural commodities products that have greatly impacted on the livelihoods of millions of agricultural producers, especially in the last six years,” So said.
So believes with the new law in place, smugglers and their cohorts in the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the Department of Agriculture (DA) will think twice, given the law’s harsher penalties and nonbailable provisions.
Sinag said under RA 10845, smuggled goods worth P10 million or more for rice, and P1 million or more for other agricultural products, such as sugar, corn, high-value crops, poultry and livestock will be subjected as economic sabotage.
The group also said smugglers and their cohorts will be charged with life imprisonment and a fine of twice the fair value of their smuggled products, plus the aggregate amount of the taxes, duties and other charges avoided.
“RA 10845 is the fruit of the collective endeavor, painstaking effort and vigilance in the last three years of the whole agriculture industry, with the support of Sen. Cynthia Villar, Sen. JV Ejercito and Abono Party-list Congressman Conrad Estrella,” Sinag said.
Data from Sinag showed about P200 billion worth of agricultural commodities were smuggled into the country in the last five years.
Sinag said this translates to around P60 billion to P80 billion in lost revenues for the government, since agricultural commodities are supposed to be protected and levied a tariff of 30 percent to 40 percent.
The report showed smuggled rice during the period reached P94 billion in terms of market value, making the staple the biggest agricultural commodity being smuggled into the Philippines.
This was followed by pork at P40 billion and sugar at about P25 billion. Other commodities monitored by Sinag include chicken, garlic, onion and carrots.
“The common fight against smuggling was to prevent the further erosion of our farmers’ livelihoods; the smuggling of agricultural products endangers the survival of the agriculture industry, which is the very fiber of our society,” Sinag said.
Smuggling also exposes the country to health risks as smuggled goods do not pass quarantine and food safety inspection, Sinag said.