The seizure of P118 million worth of smuggled rice from Thailand is proof that the illegal importation of the staple continues unchallenged under the Aquino government, a lobby group of agricultural workers said Wednesday.
“After five years and four Customs’ chief, there is no doubt that this administration has failed the agriculture sector in this regard,” said Rosendo So, chairperson of Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG).
“Smuggling has prospered and continues to thrive under this government,” So said in reaction to the agriculture officials’ inability to adequately respond to questions during a Senate hearing investigating the issue.
SINAG earlier discovered that close to P200 billion worth of agricultural goods were smuggled into the country since 2010, the year Aquino assumed the presidency.
Smuggled rice makes up about P94 billion, making the grain the single biggest agricultural commodity being smuggled into the country. Smuggled pork comes at a far second at P40 billion and then sugar at close to P25 billion.
Other commodities being smuggled include chicken, garlic, onion and carrots.
In terms of volume, 2,772,142 metric tons of rice was smuggled from 2010 to 2014, double the volume of 1,066,021 metric tons smuggled from 2005 to 2009.
SINAG had proposed making the National Food Authority (NFA) the lone importer of rice and for government to reconsider the implementation of government-to-government (G2G) scheme as the sole mode of importing rice.
Permits are supposedly allocated to farmer cooperatives.
However, these permits are being bought by unscrupulous traders. The scheme is similar to the one allegedly employed by businessman Davidson Bangayan and other similar consolidators of import permits as exposed in previous Senate investigations.
SINAG said the market value of the smuggled rice in this last case translates to a loss of P60-P80 billion in revenues for government. Rice is a highly sensitive commodity that is protected so imports are levied a higher tariff of 30 percent to 40 percent.
“Sa halip na pangalagaan at tulungan ang lokal na industriya ng agrikultura na tanging ikinabubuhay ng milyon-milyong pamilyang Pilipino, tila wala nang intensyon ang pamahalaang ito na masabat ang smuggling,” (Instead of helping the local agricultural sector that millions of Filipinos depend on for livelihood, it appears that government has no intention to stop smuggling,) So said.