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‘If Marcos can’t stop agricultural smuggling, no one can’

Paolo Romero - The Philippine Star
âIf Marcos canât stop agricultural smuggling, no one canâ
That certainty was voiced out yesterday by Sen. Cynthia Villar, who is expected to continue chairing the Senate committee on agriculture and food in the 19th Congress.
Walter Bollozos

MANILA, Philippines — If anyone in government can decisively curb the smuggling of vegetables, fruits, pork, chicken and other agricultural produce, that would be President Marcos.

That certainty was voiced out yesterday by Sen. Cynthia Villar, who is expected to continue chairing the Senate committee on agriculture and food in the 19th Congress.

“We expect that the President can do that (stop agricultural smuggling) now that the President is there,” Villar, speaking in Filipino, said in a radio interview with dwIZ.

Asked what Marcos could do now that the Senate has released the list of people allegedly involved in illegally importing agricultural goods, the senator added: “No one has stopped that. If the President can’t stop smuggling, no one can.”

She said it is good that Marcos decided to take charge of the Department of Agriculture (DA) to make sure the DA correctly and immediately implements the laws Congress had passed to make farmers productive and ensure food security.

“He can see for himself that there are many programs in the DA that are not being implemented properly,” she said.

Before the close of the 18th Congress, the Senate released a list of alleged smugglers of agricultural products and their protectors in government.
Villar commented that the list of 22 people, released by the Senate committee of the whole chaired by then Senate president Vicente Sotto III, contained some “old” and “new” names.

Included in the list were several officials of the DA and the Bureau of Customs (BOC).

Senators lamented that despite the enactment of Republic Act 10845 (Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016), which categorized the crime of smuggling agricultural products as economic sabotage, not one smuggler has been convicted and jailed.

Earlier, Sen. Imee Marcos said a deeper investigation of agricultural smuggling and the prosecution of notorious smugglers should be done in the first 100 days of the administration of her brother, the President.

She said the actual filing of cases against smugglers will be the measure of the new administration’s seriousness in curbing the misdeclaration and undervaluation of agricultural imports.

“Illegal imports have pulled down local farmgate prices and discouraged farmers from pursuing their livelihood,” said Sen. Marcos, who chairs the Senate economic affairs committee.

For her part, Villar worked for the enactment of laws for the crops sectors, among them the creation of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund under the Rice Tariffication Law, the Coconut Levy Fund Act and the Sugar Industry Development Law.

She said she would push for the enactment of a law to develop the corn sector and devote more time for bills for the livestock, poultry and dairy sectors.

She also plans to pass measures on the establishment of more fish hatcheries in the country.

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