Farmers group supports stricter penalties for public officials involved in agri smuggling

A FARMERS group has expressed support for a House bill that seeks to impose stricter penalties for public officials involved in smuggling of agricultural goods and proposes to bring back the price and volume watch task force.

Danilo Fausto, president of the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI), told SunStar Cebu on Wednesday, November 9, 2022, that they are in favor of the proposed law.

Fausto said it is high time that government officials themselves would experience similar penalties they impose on private sectors when it comes to agricultural smuggling.

He said those officials caught doing the illegal act should be imprisoned, stressing kicking them out of their public positions is not enough.

"Dapat lang talaga sa kanila mataas yung penalty hindi lang pagtanggal sa trabaho. Dapat sa kanila makulong," said Fausto.

(The penalty should really be high for them, not just dismissal. They should be imprisoned.)

Fausto narrated the struggles of farmers, saying many of them could not get back their capital as agricultural smugglers do not pay tariffs and taxes.

"Even if they have subsidized production input... then when they arrive, they don't pay tariff and tax... and they lower their price, the farmers can't compete," said Fausto.

Though he did not have exact data, Fausto said he received reports that many onions, sugar, and rice farmers, among others, have suffered economic losses because of the smuggling problem.

He stressed the need for the Department of Agriculture (DA) to bring back its price and volume watch (PVW) task force composed of different agencies involved in trading to monitor the supply and prices of goods.

The PVW was instituted by the government to envision participatory governance and marketing intelligence mechanisms that support better supply chain management, competitiveness, market infrastructure, marketing system, agribusiness, and export performance and development.

On Saturday, November 5, Agri Partylist Representative Wilbert Lee filed House Bill 5742, which seeks to amend the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016 (Republic Act 10845).

Lee said the bill aims to impose heftier penalties, such as disqualification from holding public office, for public officials involved in the smuggling of agricultural goods.

Lee underscored the need to punish not only the illegal importers but all those involved in agricultural smuggling, including public officials and employees, "with perpetual absolute disqualification from holding office."

The bill also stated that a penalty of up to life imprisonment and a fine of up to twice the fair value of the smuggled agricultural product and the sum amount of the taxes and other charges with interest rate shall be imposed on those who violate the law.

Lee believes the strict implementation of the law could help increase the production and income of farmers which, in turn, he said could benefit the whole country.

Asked for comment, DA-Central Visayas refused, stressing it will wait for the official statement of its central office in Manila. (HIC)