Agri group backs raps filed by Ping vs BOC
DAGUPAN CITY—An umbrella organization of agriculture industry groups has lauded the economic sabotage complaint filed against former Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon and several others for their alleged involvement in rice smuggling.
Rosendo So, chair of Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag), said the case against Faeldon was the first to be filed using Republic Act (RA) No. 10845, which makes large-scale agricultural smuggling a form of economic sabotage.
“Faeldon group’s missed the opportunity to curb rampant smuggling of agricultural products,” So said in a statement.
“He did not file a single case although he most probably was aware of who the smugglers were,” So added.
The economic sabotage case was filed by Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Thursday.
Sinag said since the law was enacted, several cases of smuggling of rice, onion, garlic and sugar were reported but the Bureau of Customs (BOC) did not file a single case against smugglers.
So said the BOC “was not really serious in pursuing these cases,” citing the failure of the BOC to sue those behind the smuggling of onions shipped in 87 containers early this year.
The smuggled onions were worth at least P130 million, which was “much more than the P1-million minimum amount for smugglers to fall within the ambit of economic sabotage,” So said.
The case, So said, proved that not only the BOC, but also agriculture officials, were “in cahoots with big-time smugglers.”
Lacson filed the charges against Faeldon and nine others, including National Food Authority Administrator Jason Aquino, with the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly “conspiring to smuggle 40,000 bags of rice.”
Lacson said two shipments of Vietnamese rice entered the country in March through the Cagayan de Oro port.
One shipment contained 21,800 bags worth $370,600 and another contained 18,200 bags worth $309,400.
P80B in losses
On April 26, the shipments were declared “abandoned and forfeited,” but Aquino allegedly issued a certification and confirmation for the shipments on May 17, paving the way for their release by the BOC.
Under RA 10845, the amount of smuggled agricultural products subject to economic sabotage should be equal or more than P10 million for rice and equal or more than P1 million for onions and other products.
Data from Sinag showed agricultural commodities worth P200 billion were smuggled into the country in the last five years. This translated from P60 billion to P80 billion in lost revenues for the government, Sinag said. —YOLANDA SOTELO