Senator JV Ejercito has called on the government to relentlessly implement the anti-agricultural smuggling law to ensure the livelihood of Filipino farmers.
“Agricultural smuggling is ‘killing’ our farmers. Sa tuwing pumapasok sa ating bansa ang smuggled na bigas, sibuyas, bawang, at iba pang produktong agrikultural, mababa ang presyong sa palengke kasi wala binayarang buwis o tariff,” Ejercito said.
“Our farmers can’t compete with the prices of smuggled goods because their capital is already high. Kaya wala na ring tutubuin,” he added.
Ejercito voiced these concerns as member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food that is looking into the shortage of National Food Authority (NFA) rice stock.
The legislator is one of the authors of Republic Act 10845, or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act, which defines large-scale agricultural smuggling as economic sabotage and prescribes harsh penalties for individuals found to be engaged in the illegal activity.
The lawmaker expressed disappointment over the failure of the government to indict suspected agricultural smugglers, especially rice smugglers, despite the enactment of the law in 2016.
“Since its enactment, it’s disappointing to find out that the Bureau of Customs was only able to file 3 cases in the Department of Justice (DOJ). Meaning, we are not utilizing the law,” the senator from San Juan said.
He said the Bureau of Customs, law enforcement agencies, and the DOJ should work closely to put a stop to agricultural smuggling by “throwing the book on smugglers.”
As long as agricultural smugglers are in business, the source of livelihood of our farmers is in peril.
“The overarching issue of the claimed NFA rice shortage is agricultural smuggling. As long as agricultural smugglers are in business, the source of livelihood of our farmers is in peril,” Ejercito said.
“The government should protect our farmers and such should not be taken for granted. I will see to it that our laws will bring about results in the future,” he added.