Farm group seeks pursuit of Sevilla reforms
A acoalition of farmers and farm producers urged the Aquino administration to continue the war on smuggling and the reforms started by resigned Customs Chief John Philip Sevilla.
A leader of the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag) said the group was in the middle of finalizing with Sevilla details of action plans to help improve the fight against smuggling when Sevilla quit, citing politics as a reason.
The action plans included full access to information in the Customs bureau that would help improve the fight against smuggling and lead to more efficient ways to inspect smuggled goods.
“It is the first time in the history of the BOC (Bureau of Customs) that they have invited the agriculture industry to access freely within the premises of the BOC all pertinent information to help our efforts in isolating legitimate imports from those that are being technically smuggled,” said Sinag chair Rosendo So.
Among the pieces of information that Sevilla agreed to make available to Sinag, So said, are those in inward foreign manifest, import permits, and actual value and volume of imports arriving in the ports.
Sinag said its members are saddened by Sevilla’s resignation and are apprehensive that his departure from the BOC may derail the agency’s objective, which it shares with agriculture industry players, to combat smuggling.
The fight against smuggling would prevent losses to farmers and keep local farming businesses viable, So said.
He said Sevilla’s open information policy had encouraged agriculture industry players to hope that reforms are coming soon in the Customs bureau. Sevilla, So said, had also set up a structure of coordination between agriculture industry players and his deputies.
“The reforms were already paying off in the Luzon ports as most reports of smuggling of agricultural commodities (onions, rice, garlic, ginger, pork and chicken) are supposedly happening instead in the Visayas and Mindano areas,” So said.
According to So, Sinag is still hoping that the President will not accept the resignation of Sevilla, but the optimism may be falsely based as Malacañang had already announced the replacement of Sevilla by businessman Bert Lina, who quit as Customs chief to join a movement to force former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to resign over allegations of election fraud.
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