THE Philippines has now a better shot at curbing the perennial problem of smuggling agricultural products.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd has signed into law the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act (Republic Act 10845) to impose stiffer penalties on the large-scale smuggling of agricultural products.
Senator Cynthia Villar, principal sponsor of the bill, said the law would boost the campaign against smuggling, which continues to threaten the livelihood of farmers and the food security in the country.
With smuggling now a non-bailable charge, Villar said the process of prosecuting violators would largely improve.
“Harsher penalties [will]serve as deterrent to smuggling activities,” she said in a statement on Friday.
RA 10845 defines economic sabotage as “any act or activity which undermines, weakens or renders into disrepute the economic system or viability of the country or tends to bring out such effects and shall include, among others, price manipulation to the prejudice of the public, especially in the sale of basic necessities and prime commodities.”
The law provides that the smuggling of sugar, corn, pork, poultry, garlic, onion, carrots, fish, and cruciferous vegetables totaling at least P1 million, or rice with a minimum amount of P10 million will be considered economic sabotage.
Violators will face a penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of twice the fair value of the smuggled agricultural product and the aggregate amount of the taxes, duties and other charges avoided.
“Economic saboteurs deserve to be severely punished under this new law,” Villar, chair of the Committee on Agriculture and Food, said.
“They threaten the livelihood of small and subsistence farmers because the presence of smuggled products unjustly lowers market price, making it almost impossible for locally-produced goods to compete,” she added.
Apart from this measure, the President also signed two of Villar’s priority bills for the agricultural sector, such as the Farm Tourism Development Act (RA 10816) and the Philippine Halal Export Development and Promotion Act (RA 10817).
RA 10816 encourages the development of farm areas to attract tourists for production, educational and recreational purposes, while RA 10817 creates the Philippine Halal Export Development and Promotion Board to promote the growth and ensure the integrity and quality of Philippine halal exports.
“Although there’s still a lot to be accomplished in terms of legislative support for the agriculture sector, we are thankful to the President for seeing the merit of these bills in helping our farmers and farm workers create additional sources of income,” Villar said.