Senate approves bill declaring agricultural smuggling as economic sabotage
By Jelly F. Musico


MANILA, Oct. 5 (PNA) -- Voting 12-0-1, the Senate on Monday passed on third and final reading a bill seekig to declare large-scale agricultural smuggling as economic sabotage.

Senate Bill No. 2923, introduced by Senators Cynthia Villar and JV Ejercito, penalizes illegal importers of agricultural products with a fine of twice the fair market value of the smuggled products and its corresponding amount of taxes, duties and other charges.

Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile opted to abstain due to his absence when the measure was tackled on the floor. Enrile earlier posted bail for his plunder charges in connection with the pork barrel scam.

Under the bill, illegal importers will face imprisonment of not less than 17 years but not more than 20 years.

“It is our duty to protect our farmers from unscrupulous traders and importers who, by illegally importing agricultural products, significantly affect the production, availability, supply and price stability of our agricultural sector,” Villar said.

She stressed the importance of the growth and development of the country’s agricultural sector.

“It is high time that we pass a law that helps reduce poverty among our farmers and agricultural households, a law that will help ensure food security and stability and at the same time provide safeguards and income opportunities to our local producers,” Villar said.

The bill provides that the smuggling of sugar, corn, pork, poultry, garlic, onion, carrots, fish and cruciferous vegetables amounting to a minimum of PhP1 million shall be considered as economic sabotage. Smugglers of rice, amounting to PhP10 million, also face stiff penalties under the bill.

Villar said agricultural economic saboteurs would include traders who prey on cooperatives by using their permits for smuggling purposes, officers of dummy corporations, non-government organizations, or associations who knowingly sell, lend, lease, assign, and allow the unauthorized use of their import permits.

She said government officials or employees acting in connivance with private individuals or entities would be dismissed from public office and banned from voting in any elections.

The bill also calls for the confiscation of smuggled products, cancellation and revocation of business license, import permits, and other pertinent documents for importation.

It also permanently disqualifies economic saboteurs from importing agricultural products.

Ejercito, chairman of the Senate committee economic affairs, said the measure’s penalties would serve as deterrence to illegal negotiations at the Bureau of Customs.

”This bill will not only put an end to agricultural smuggling, it will also help solve the prevailing crisis in supply, production and price of agricultural products. With this bill, we might attain our aspiration of being a major exporter of agricultural produce to other countries,” Ejercito said.

Senate President Franklin Drilon said the bill will pave the way for heavier and more prohibitive penalties to the smuggling of basic commodities. (PNA)


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