Sotto wants probe on agricultural smuggling; issue referred to Senate committee of whole | Inquirer News
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Sotto wants probe on agricultural smuggling; issue referred to Senate committee of whole

/ 06:36 PM December 07, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Senate President Vicente Sotto III has sought for a probe on a seemingly large-scale smuggling of agricultural products in the country, saying that it is affecting the industry and putting farmers’ livelihood in peril.

Sotto made the call during a privilege speech on Tuesday and said that farmers are on the losing end with large-scale agricultural smuggling because the industry finds it hard to achieve agricultural independence as oversupply drives price down.

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“Kawawang mga farmers, kawawang mga Pilipinong mamimili. No matter how we try to elevate the state of our agricultural sector to enable them to produce enough and provide for the whole nation, we will never achieve our agricultural independence because some scrupulous individuals are in cahoots with the smugglers,” Sotto said in his speech.

“This is a call for this august body to exercise its oversight function and look into these matters. Hindi lang pandemya ang pinaka mabigat na kalaban ngayon kung hindi korupsyon. Some have said that ‘the biggest disease is corruption’. Ito ang tuluy- tuloy na nagpapahirap sa ating lahat,” he added.

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According to Sotto, they documented Bureau of Customs (BOC) press releases from May 2021 to November 18, which showed that the agency conducted 25 anti-smuggling operations that amounted to around P1 billion worth of goods like frozen meats, vegetables, fishes, and other raw products.

However, he said that the tally of the press releases and the cases being filed by the Bureau of Customs do not match.

“Upon further investigation, the tally of the press releases vis-a-vis the cases filed thereafter does not match. Hindi nagtutugma sa mga operations nila ang actual na kaso na dinadala sa korte,” he explained.

“Corrupt practices committed by certain individuals have far-reaching consequences that affects our farmers, business sectors and ultimately the Filipino consumers,” he added.

After Sotto’s speech, various committees moved to refer the speech to various committees.  Eventually, senators moved that it be referred to the committee of the whole, to let other senators who are not members of participating committees make comments and raise questions too.

Over the course of the period mentioned by Sotto, there have been several big-time operations launched by BOC, just like the seizure of P15 million worth of smuggled vegetables from China on the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), misdeclared to be mixed frozen vegetables.

But upon inspection, it was revealed that the container vans had fresh vegetables.

On November 20, P70 million of misdeclared fresh vegetables were again seized in Subic.

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TAGS: agriculture smuggling, BOC, Bureau of Customs, large scale smuggling, Philippine news updates, Senate, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, vegetable smuggling
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