By Jelly Musico
MANILA, Aug. 31 (PNA) — Senator Cynthia Villar on Sunday pushed for the enactment of a bill declaring smuggling of agricultural products as economic sabotage.
Villar, chairperson of the Senate committee on food and agriculture, said the passage of Senate Bill No. 2765 will send signal that the government is bent on curbing smuggling in the country.
“We want smugglers to feel the gravity of their act by making agricultural smuggling a non-bailable offense. The presence of smuggled agricultural products unjustly lowers market price, making it almost impossible for locally produced goods to compete,” Villar said.
She said the report of her committee on the bill is now being routed for signature of senators and will be sponsored on the Senate floor this week.
Under the bill, the amount of smuggled agricultural products subject to economic sabotage is equal or more than Php10 million for rice, and equal or more than Php1 million for other agricultural products such as sugar, corn, pork, poultry, garlic, onion, carrots, dried fish, and cruciferous vegetables.
“Smuggling of agricultural products puts our local industries and food producers in a very dangerous and vulnerable situation,” she said.
Villar also lamented the pace in prosecuting smugglers, saying the Department of Justice has not yet filed formal charges against alleged big-time smuggler David Bangayan and Leah Cruz, who was involved in the garlic cartel.
The alleged smugglers were the center of the inquiry on smuggling in 2013 presided by Villar.
“In order to ensure food security and stability, higher sanctions for certain acts of agricultural smuggling, tantamount to economic sabotage must be imposed. Harsher punishments to smugglers, traders, government officers, if enacted, will curtail such acts which compromise the level of food security in the country,” she said.
The Nacionalista Party senator said smuggling is more serious than the pork barrel scam with about 600,000 metric tons of rice smuggled each year and about Php200 billion lost to agricultural smuggling alone.
Villar said she also continues to receive reports that the onion and garlic cartel is still operating in Nueva Ecija and Ilocos Norte. (PNA)