THE Department of Agriculture (DA) has canceled all permits for the importation of meat and plant products as part of government efforts to fight smuggling.
“I issued instructions for the immediate cancellation of all import permits, both meat and plant products, because of persistent recycling and technical smuggling,” Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said on Tuesday. “We have to do this to make sure that all permits are no longer recycled. Many unscrupulous individuals are using the same permits all over again.”
This means that all “legitimate” importers and traders will have to revalidate their import permits at the DA office in Quezon City. The DA chief believes that his move will have no adverse impact on the economy, particularly on the prices of goods.
Piñol’s order was prompted by a United Nations report on the volume of meat and offals imported by the country. The UN report indicated that there is a tendency to declare good meat as offals.
Agriculture lobby group Samahang Industriya sa Agrikultura (SINAG) welcomed the DA’s move with caution.
The group said smuggling continues to flourish because smugglers and their protectors are not punished.
“Ilang alert na ang nailabas, ilang mga smuggled agri commodities na rin ang nakumpiska in the past weeks and months, pero wala pa ring nakakasuhan. Up to now, hindi pa rin naibibigay sa atin ang mga owners and incorporators of those smuggled commodities (Several alerts have been issued and commodities have been seized in the past weeks and months but no one has been charged. We still do not know the owners and incorporators of those smuggled commodities)” SINAG chairman Rosendo So said in a statement.
“We are just hoping that the re-issuance of new import permits would not be a new source of corruption for some people,” he added.
The group said the review of import permits should start with an accreditation process for importers. Only those with legitimate financial standing in the last two years should be accredited, it said.
“There is also a need for the DA to publicly list all accredited importers and their SEC papers, annual financial/income report for the past three years so we can weed out spurious imports,” it added.
In the last five years, SINAG research suggests that close to P200 billion worth of agricultural goods were smuggled into the country. Rice tops the list with P94 billion worth of the staple illegally shipped into the country, followed by pork at P40 billion and sugar, P25 billion.