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PANGILINAN: PROTECT FARMERS, FISHERS VS SMUGGLING

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

In his opening statement at 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 has paved the way for unfair market competition.

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 be beneficial for local farmers and fishermen, but also to the nation.

“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 bilyong 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 kung inuna ang mga lokal na manufacturing firms,” he added.

According to the lawmaker, his office received complaints from local farmers, alleging that the smuggled products are stored at various 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.

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.

“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 be beneficial for local farmers and fishermen, but also to the nation.

“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 mercado. Lahat tayo makikinabang at mawawala na ang gutom,” Pangilinan said.

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