The agriculture lobby group Samahang Industriya sa Agrikultura (SINAG) on Wednesday called on Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon to immediately file charges of economic sabotage against RPR International Trading, their brokers, agents and cohorts in government for allegedly attempting to smuggle twelve 40-foot containers of rice, right in the heart of the customs headquarters.
“This is another litmus test on Commissioner Faeldon’s resolve to combat smuggling, there is already a law in place – RA10845 – that penalizes smuggling of agricultural products as an act that constitute economic sabotage, a non-bailable offence,” SINAG Chairperson Rosendo So said in a statement.
He added that it is not enough for the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to simply suspend the consignee’s accreditation and conduct photo ops for the apprehended containers.
“We are hoping that this time, these smugglers will be apprehended, charged and punished accordingly. Many in the agriculture sector voted for President Duterte because of his promise to end smuggling,” So said.
Under RA 10845, the amount of smuggled agricultural products constitutes economic sabotage if it is equal to or more than P10 million for rice, and equal to or more than P1 million for other agricultural products such as sugar, corn, pork, poultry, garlic, onion, carrots, fish and cruciferous vegetables.
Smugglers and their cohorts will face a penalty of life imprisonment and a fine amounting to twice the fair value of the smuggled agricultural product and the aggregate amount of the taxes, duties and other charges avoided.
The BOC appraised the value of the smuggled rice at P20 million and as such it is subject to economic sabotage charges.
The agri lobby group also reiterated their earlier demand for the BOC to file charges of economic sabotage against Sanfred Trading and Great Light Trading – the consignees of 88 40-foot containers containing red onions, when the import permit issued was for garlic and ginger.
The group said cases of smuggling should have been filed long ago against these importers/consignees, their respective brokers and cohorts in government, if any.
“Wala pang nakakasuhan ng economic sabotage kaya’t malakas pa rin ang loob ng mga smugglers na ito at tuloy ang kanilang ligaya,” So lamented.
In the last five years, SINAG research showed that close to P200 billion worth of agricultural goods have been smuggled into the country.
The SINAG report also disclosed that rice, with a market value of P94 billion, is the single biggest agricultural commodity being smuggled into the country. This was followed by pork at P40 billion, then sugar at close to P25 billion. Other commodities SINAG monitored include chicken, garlic, onion and carrots.
According to the group, a market value of P200 billion translates to around P60 billion to P80 billion in lost revenues for the government since these agricultural commodities are supposed to be protected and levied a higher tariff of 30 percent to 40 percent.
SINAG added that the common fight against smuggling was undertaken to prevent further erosion of our farmers’ livelihoods. The smuggling of agricultural products endangers the agriculture industry which is the very iber of our society.
Smuggling, according to SINAG, also exposes the country to unsafe and high risk agriculture and food products as the smuggled goods do not pass quarantine and food safety inspection.