Smuggling of farm products: BOC, BPI grilled by the senators
SENATE investigators investigating the relentless smuggling of agricultural products have urged the Customs Office to report on the brazen “repeat offenders” who transport contraband products to the country’s ports.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, during the Senate hearing in Committee of the Whole, asked the Customs Office to “submit an investigative report into why repeated agricultural smugglers remain brazen in their attempts to do so. enter contraband into the country. “
Hontiveros referred to a BOC matrix on government operations on contraband agricultural products, noting that based on the report, at least four companies stood out for their repeat transactions.
“Kapansin-pansin ang Zhenpin, Thousand Sunny Enterprise, Dua Te Mira, at Gingarnion Agri Trading “, observed the senator, adding that” these companies were involved in at least 400 million pesos of contraband vegetables. Ibig sabihin, halos kalahati ng [That means, in half of the] P800 million reported apprehensions [of] BOC, [these four area] implied.”
At the same Committee of the Whole hearing, senators lashed out at the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) officials for allowing the import of Korean strawberries unloaded in Cebu even though Benguet’s strawberry crops were bountiful.
The BPI is mandated to issue a phytosanitary authorization for imported agricultural products, in particular fruits and vegetables.
Senator Panfilo Lacson asked BPI director Ariel Bayot why the BPI was killing local agricultural products like carrots, noting observations that they intentionally allow the entry of imported carrots during the local harvest season. .
Agot Balanoy, public relations manager for the League of Associations in La Trinidad’s Vegetable Trading Zones, told senators they were able to obtain BPI documents authorizing the importation of Korean strawberries for Cebu, but they were declared as “ornamental plants”.
Senators were told it was purportedly intended for Koreans in Cebu, but the same could be purchased at upscale grocery stores and malls in the city.
Lawmakers have learned that two vans full of strawberries are delivered to Cebu each week, with each van carrying 25,000 kilograms, causing these outlets to no longer place orders with local planters who supplied strawberries to Cebu’s grocery stores.
According to Balanoy, the claim that Korean strawberries are of better quality cannot justify importing, as she noted that Benguet’s giant strawberries are much larger.
In turn, Bayot said imports were allowed not to kill local industry, but only to comply with international trade agreements.
But Balanoy also noted that Bayot could not answer when asked why imported strawberries were declared “ornamental plants.”
At the same time, Senator Kiko Pangilinan noted the no-show of BPI director George Culaste, who said in a previous interview that Korean strawberries are not considered a competitor, claiming that imported strawberries are sold from 1,000 to 1,500 pesos per kilo. while Benguet strawberries are sold at P 300 per kilo.
The biggest crisis in Subic
Meanwhile, Hontiveros, citing documents, said the four importers she listed were subject to the largest agricultural product confiscation in the port of Subic. Thousand Sunny and Dua Te Mira had both been arrested on three separate occasions for misrepresenting shipments and exceeding their stay.
Gingarnion had already been arrested at least once. The cargoes carried onions, carrots and broccoli.
“How are they able to repeat their convertible? From June, they started again in July, then again in October. Why do they keep doing it? Are these people given special consideration? We want to know why these four can continue to do their business, â€she asked, partly in Filipino.
Hontiveros then asked the BOC to remove all repeat offenders from Joint Administrative Order (JAO) 20-01, which allowed for the expedited release of refrigerated containers and dry vans during the enhanced community quarantine.
â€œAll repeat offenders must be eliminated in this JAO. It’s a privilege. And if it is proven that they have smuggled and are guilty of economic sabotage, their licenses and permits should be revoked and they should be jailed according to the law, â€Hontiveros said.
â€œSmuggling threatens our economic recovery. People like these who victimize our farmers, our entire agricultural sector, face penalties. Even local government units are victimized because they should have gotten bigger shares of the IRA [internal revenue allotment] BOC collections that they can use for constituents. It is not a victimless crime. This should not be allowed, â€said the senator.
Image courtesy of BERNARD TESTA