Local Officials, Stakeholders Continue to Work Against Vegetable SmugglingGovernor Dr. Melchor Daguines Diclas and Congressman Eric Go Yap have been actively coordinating with the Department of Agriculture (DA) up to the national government regarding the issue on smuggling of vegetables. In response, DA-CAR Regional Executive Director Cameron Odsey has recently written to the office of the Governor to report their actions over the matter.
In his letter, RED Odsey said DA has already crafted major policies against agricultural smuggling since 2016. It can be recalled that Republic Act 10845 or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act was signed into law in May 2016 “declaring large-scale agricultural smuggling as economic sabotage.” This aims to protect Filipino farmers and agricultural enterprises from illegal traders and importers.
RED Odsey said DA has done its part by investigating the “so-called smuggling of cabbage and carrots.” He said the agency through its Bureau of Plant Industry conducted an emergency meeting with all Plant Quarantine Services Regional and area managers to provide instruction to conduct monitoring of Plant Quarantine (PQ) Central Office any suspected smuggled commodities and to coordinate with Bureau of Customs (BOC) at their respective jurisdictions.
“PQ Stations have been communicating with their respective BOC for request for hold order / alert (warrant for seizure and detention) and 100% inspection in cases of suspected smuggled or misdeclared plants and plant products,” RED Odsey added.
The Bureau of Plant Industry, according to RED Odsey, has also requested dialogue with BOC to emphasize the “operationalization of the Customs Memorandum Order No. 04-2007” which talks about the implementation of the Memorandum of Agreement between the Department of Finance and Department of Agriculture on anti-smuggling.
Further, RED Odsey said a directive from the BOC Commissioner was also requested to instruct district collectors to allow PQ officers in all ports to gain access to X-ray monitor control rooms to ensure “veracity of the shipment and likewise deter unscrupulous importers to bring in undocumented shipments in the country.” Several memoranda were also issued to address the issue.
Recently, Secretary William Dar has ordered attached units of DA to implement intensified and stricter first border inspection and control of all imported food items and other agri-fishery-related products, according to the Regional Executive Director.
Meantime, the BOC has recently lauded Benguet local officials for their effort in curbing the smuggling of vegetables. Baguio Herald Express, in one of their recent articles, reported that Atty. Vincent Philip Maronilla, Customs Assistant Commissioner, said that Congressman “Yap, local officials and agriculture industry stakeholders had been constantly providing the bureau with vital information that led to the conduct of successful operations that resulted in their seizure and eventual destruction of smuggled vegetables in various parts of Metro Manila, Subic, Cebu and other strategic ports in the country over the past several months.”
On the other hand, Governor Diclas said he together with Congressman Yap and other local officials and stakeholders will continuously work hand-in-hand to address the issue on smuggling.