Senator Win Gatchalian called for the creation of a task force that would zero in on arresting rampant smuggling and hoarding of agricultural products. He said the task force should be headed by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and should involve the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
“Obviously, there is a shortfall in supply of onions, but prices continue to climb even with the entry of additional supply in the market,” noted Gatchalian, who surmised that certain groups or individuals may be hoarding supply and manipulating prices to push onion prices even higher. He shared that he recently purchased a half kilo of onions for almost 500 pesos.
“Hindi lang households ang natatamaan dito kundi pati mga maliliit na negosyante. Kailangang maimbestigahan ang issue ng smuggling sa bansa at masampahan ng kaso ang mga smugglers ng economic sabotage,” he added.
The lawmaker reiterated that smugglers are likely to continue with their illegal activities unless the government tracks down big-time smugglers and appropriate charges are filed against them.
“Sa nakikita kong datos, mababa ang conviction rate at ‘yan ang isang titignan namin sa Ways and Means Committee. Titignan namin ‘yung mga produktong ini-import at magkano ang ibinabayad na buwis at kung ilan na ba ang nakakasuhan. Titignan din natin kung ano ang nagiging problema ng Bureau of Customs (BOC) kasi kung walang napaparusahan, uulit at uulit lang ang mga smugglers,” Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, stressed
“Smuggling adversely affects the economy not just in terms of revenue loss for the government because of uncollected tariffs and duties. Smuggling also destroys the market dynamics of local products. We need strong enforcement of existing laws to effectively address this issue and protect local producers,” he added.
Republic Act 10845, also known as An Act Declaring Large-Scale Agricultural Smuggling as Economic Sabotage, was enacted into law in 2016. However, the smuggling of agricultural products continues to enter the country unabated. Aside from onion, agricultural products being smuggled into the country include sugar, corn, pork, poultry, garlic, carrots, fish, and cruciferous vegetables as per data from the agriculture department.