A group of commercial fishing operators based in the National Capital Region (NCR) — mainly in Navotas City – has commended the Senate for its serious stance on the issue of agricultural smuggling in the country.
The group – known as the Inter-Island Deepsea Fishing Association (IDSFA) – is commending the Senate for Committee Report 649 as smuggling of fisheries’ products greatly affects the members of its association.
“The smuggled goods that converge mainly in the NCR compete directly with locally produced fish — primarily galunggong,” said Paul Santos of the IDSFA.
“The issue of agricultural smuggling goes way back. For fisheries products, it can be done in several ways, such as importing without the proper permits, misdeclaring species, or selling outside of the intended purpose as stated in the import permit,” he added.
He also stressed that the problem has existed for two decades and severely affected the whole fishing sector. In the past 10 years, the illegal act has grown bigger and more powerful.
“We need to be mindful that smugglers benefit if government agencies conduct apprehensions but fumbles the investigation that ultimately weakens their case. Smugglers likewise benefit if the enforcing agency will just file an administrative case instead of an apparent criminal complaint,” said Santos.
“These flaws in law enforcement need to be avoided. Several policies of the Department of Agriculture (DA) also need a second look, especially those created in the last three years that tend to encourage smuggling activities,” he added.
To recall, the Senate Committee Report revealed that the alleged smugglers gained footholds and influence in the highest of government agencies tasked with the mandate to prevent such illegal activities — many of whom have been already identified.
Meantime, Santos said that the alleged involvement of Navotas City Mayor Toby Tiangco is not true, since the group has witnessed Tiangco’s and his team’s valiant effort in the fight against smuggling.
“We make this statement in appreciation and support of the good Mayor’s actions. It is impossible that he is a protector of smugglers,” said Santos.
“Again, we commend the Senate for addressing this concern, as we continue to support the government’s fight against smuggling. We are hopeful that the next administration will be able to sustain this and genuinely support the local fishermen,” he added.
Image credits: Roy Domingo