EDITORIAL - ‘Mother of all smuggling’

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - âMother of all smugglingâ

Feedstock is biological raw material used to manufacture or process another product particularly fuel. Corn is feedstock for producing ethanol. Soybean oil is feedstock for the production of biodiesel.

In recent years, as crude oil prices keep rising, there have been efforts to tap used or waste cooking oil for the production of biodiesel. Unused cooking oil, however, is too expensive to use for petrodiesel.

This week lawmakers learned that the Department of Agriculture allowed the importation of P300 billion worth of cooking oil from Malaysia. It doesn’t seem likely that Malaysia would have such a massive amount of used cooking oil, so the importation must consist of unused edible oil. The difference is that if the oil is declared as UCO for use as feedstock, it can enter the country tariff-free, thus avoiding a hefty 15 percent levy.

Lawmakers believe the importation was deliberately misdeclared and constituted a form of smuggling that cheated the country of P45 billion in badly needed revenue. And certain lawmakers believe Department of Agriculture officials were aware of the misdeclaration. Albay Rep. Joey Salceda described the DA as the “mother of all smuggling” as he decried the impact of illegal agricultural imports on the livelihoods of local farmers.

Salceda believes that in agricultural smuggling, the DA accounts for 80 percent of the problem through the issuance of anomalous import clearances, with the Bureau of Customs accounting for the remaining 20 percent.

DA officials have said they are trying to weed out the corrupt in the department, but they have limited authority to go after smugglers and in overall enforcement.

Senators conducting a parallel probe have said well-connected persons are behind the persistent smuggling of agricultural products. Farmers in Benguet and in other areas of Luzon recently decried the flood of imported carrots and onions.

The country is still largely agricultural, with millions dependent on farming for their livelihoods. Smuggling threatens not only those livelihoods but also the nation’s food security. The problem calls for political will and decisive action to nail down the smugglers including their corrupt accomplices in government.



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