Senate ratifies bill making agricultural smuggling non-bailable

Marc Jayson Cayabyab, Elijah Felice Rosales - The Philippine Star
Senate ratifies bill making agricultural smuggling non-bailable
The Senate ratified the bicameral conference committee report on the measure Wednesday night before the sine die adjournment.
Miguel De Guzman

MANILA, Philippines —  The Senate has ratified the bicameral conference version of the bill that seeks to make agricultural smuggling a non-bailable offense, according to the principal author Sen. JV Ejercito.

This means the Anti-Agricultural Economic Sabotage Bill now needs only the signature of President Marcos to become a law, Ejercito said. The bill is a priority measure.

The Senate ratified the bicameral conference committee report on the measure Wednesday night before the sine die adjournment.

The bill aims to repeal Republic Act 10845, or the “Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act,” and introduce harsher penalties for smuggling, hoarding, profiteering, and forming cartels for agricultural and fishery products.

Ejercito said the measure would level the playing field for local farmers as it “will purge our land of profiteers, hoarders, and cartels.”

“They are the pests who are choking our agricultural sector. This bill will uproot them and put them in jail, where they belong,” he said.

Ejercito lauded Sen. Cynthia Villar for her efforts in helping pass the bill in the Senate.

Meanwhile, in another development seen to lower the prices of agriculture produce, trucks carrying farm goods will be exempted from toll hikes beginning June 1. The arrangement is part of toll operators’ contribution to government’s push to bring down logistics costs and reduce consumer prices.

Toll road operators will provide cost relief to trucks carrying farm goods through the Agri-Trucks Toll Rebate Program, wherein truckers will receive rebates for toll increases dating back to June 2023.

The rebate will cover all truckers registered with the Food Lane Accreditation Project, managed by the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Aside from being included in the DA list, truckers must register RFID accounts with Autosweep and Easytrip to enjoy the rebate. Autosweep serves as the RFID for expressways operated by San Miguel Corp. (SMC), while Easytrip is for tollways handled by the Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. (MPTC).

SMC and MPTC will generate weekly report of toll passages of agricultural trucks. The concessionaires will later return the toll increases collected from truckers during the week.

Toll Regulatory Board executive director Alvin Carullo said the program will run for at least 90 days, but the rebate may be extended depending on its impact on commodity prices.

Citing records from the DA, Carullo said around 900 truckers are registered with the Food Lane Accreditation Project, but only 200 to 300 use the expressways regularly.

Carullo expects agricultural trucks to frequent the tollways now that they are exempted from toll hikes, speeding up the flow of farm goods around Luzon.

Initial estimates from the MPTC showed that an agricultural truck traveling between Balintawak and Tarlac can save up to P156 from the program. MPTC operates the North Luzon Expressway and the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway, linked to the farming region of Central Luzon.

MPTC will also distribute rebates in the Manila-Cavite Expressway of P4 in Parañaque City and P25 in Kawit, Cavite. Meanwhile, SMC will give out rebates of as much as P30 to trucks passing through the Alabang-Calamba section of the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX).

Toll road operators will conduct spot checks in their respective expressways to ensure that trucks provided with rebates are really transporting agricultural goods.

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