MANILA, Philippines – Agriculture stakeholders expressed disappointment over Malacañang’s inaction on their manifesto, calling for a shakeup of leadership at the Bureau of Customs.
The Abono Partylist, which called for the resignation of Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon also wants President Benigno Aquino III to crack the whip on Customs officials especially those manning the ports in Visayas and Mindanao where smuggled rice from China and Vietnam are illegally entering the country.
Abono partylist chairman Rosendo So, also director of the Swine Development Council, said they have submitted the manifesto more than a month ago, yet illegal entry of smuggled agricultural products continued.
So pointed out that in 2012 alone, the total volume of smuggled agricultural products amounted to P32 billion.
Comparing the volume of trade export of other countries to Philippines to the import volume based on Customs records, So said as much as P10 billion or 600,000 metric tons of rice was smuggled into the country last year.
“In 2012 alone, the total volume of smuggled agricultural products amounted to P32 billion. You also have oil players complaining of smuggled petroleum products amounting to foregone revenues of up to P30 billion a year,” he said.
“With smuggled rice flooding the market, it is only incumbent upon the government to act immediately. If the prices of rice continue to plunge, local rice production will certainly collapse,” he added.
So said the flow of distribution of rice before usually started from Northern Luzon provinces – from Ilocos, Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Isabela, Bulacan and down to Manila, and then from Manila, the local rice are being shipped to Cebu, Cagayan de Oro and Davao.
“Now, with the smuggled rice, the contraband is being shipped from Cebu, Davao and Cagayan de Oro to Manila, and from Manila, it is brought to Bulacan and, subsequently, transported to other provinces in Northern Luzon,” he lamented.
On the other hand, smuggled chicken and pork products reached P8 billion, fish and aquatic products at P3.8 billion, sugar at P4.8 billion, and onion and other vegetables at P3.5 billion.
The same group earlier called on Biazon to resign “out of delicadeza.”
“We should not let Biazon spend another minute in Customs. He should pack his things and leave immediately,” So stressed.
Biazon earlier drew much flak after big oil players complained of rampant smuggling of petroleum products in various ports across the country.
Malacañang has already distanced itself from calls for Biazon’s resignation.
“That (quit calls) should be answered by Commissioner Biazon himself,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda