Romualdez: House to prioritize bills vs hoarding, smuggling of agri products
MANILA, Philippines — Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez said Thursday that the House of Representatives will prioritize the passage of bills dealing with agricultural hoarders and smugglers.
His pledge follows President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s order for the Department of Justice (DOJ) and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate agricultural smuggling and hoarding in the country thoroughly.
Romualdez said one of the key priority bills agreed upon by the 2nd Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac) is the measure that will amend the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act.
The Ledac met at Malacañang, led by the President, with Romualdez and Senate President Zubiri present.
“As soon as the start of the 2nd Regular Session of the 19th Congress, we will immediately buckle down to work for the passage of the proposed amendments to the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act,” Romualdez said in a statement.
“The inclusion of this measure among the LEDAC priority legislation manifests the commitment of Congress to support Pres. Marcos’ drive against unfair business practices that hurt consumers and local farmers alike, but also derail the administration’s efforts to attain food security,” he added.
Romualdez said the Ledac identified 20 bills as priority measures once the 2nd Regular Session of the 19th Congress opens.
“Enactment of this measure will institutionalize and improve mechanisms, as well as provide more stringent penalties that would serve as a strong deterrent against smuggling of agricultural products, including onion,” he noted.
Early this week, Marcos ordered the DOJ and NBI to investigate agricultural smuggling and hoarding and said the probe may use the findings of the House of Representatives to start their work.
Lawmakers, including Marikina 2nd District Rep. Stella Quimbo, presented the findings of the House committee on agriculture and food before President Marcos, who concurrently serves as Secretary of the Department of Agriculture.
The House committee on agriculture and food conducted eight public hearings on agricultural smuggling and hoarding.
Based on the panel’s inquiry, smugglers take advantage of farmers and manipulate market prices of products, particularly onions, by falsely claiming that cold storage facilities are already filled up.
Since onions would have to be stored in cold storage facilities to maintain freshness, onion farmers would then be forced to sell their produce to traders at lower farm gate prices.
However, the House probe found that in reality, not all storage facilities have been filled up. It noted that some facilities and traders collude to feign full capacity, leaving no space for farmers’ onions.
The House committee on agriculture and food also named one of the resource persons in the committee hearings as the reigning and “undisputed sibuyas (onion) queen,” pointing out that the companies she established have roots in every part of the supply chain.