DOJ to form Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Task Force vs onion smugglers

DOJ to form Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Task Force vs onion smugglers
Members of the Bureau of Customs’ Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service, Philippine Coast Guard and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group inspect sacks of suspected smuggled onions and garlic valued at P95 million in a cold storage facility in Catmon, Malabon in February 2023.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman, file

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice will form an interagency Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Task Force to investigate onion smuggling that has been blamed for a surge in prices in 2022.

Onion prices, which reached P600 a kilogram by late 2022, prompted hearings at the House of Representatives and at the Senate and made headlines abroad.

"To address this issue, the Department will collaborate closely with other government agencies, including the Bureau of Customs and the Department of Agriculture, among others," the DOJ said. Also on the task force are the Office of the Prosecutor General and the National Bureau of Investigation, which are both under the justice department.

"Our team of investigators will be working to collect evidence, conduct interviews, and analyze data to uncover the intricate web of onion smuggling networks. The shared objective is clear: to dismantle these smuggling networks and ensure that those responsible are brought to justice," the department said.

It said cases are already being built against people and groups suspected of smuggling onions. The charges will be related to the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act but the department is also developing "cases related to crimes of profiteering, hoarding, and smuggling, which are recognized as acts of economic sabotage." 

The DOJ said it will also designate a Special Team of Prosecutors that will be tasked with working on cases of agricultural smuggling.

Although high onion prices have been atrributed to smugglers and cartels, resource persons at a Senate hearing in January also raised concerns about lack of cold storage facilities and ill-timed importation orders for onions.


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