Accelerate investigation into agricultural smuggling, DA urges DOJ

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Agriculture (DA) is urging the Department of Justice (DOJ) to expedite its investigation into the smuggling of agricultural products into the country to discourage similar actions.

At a public briefing yesterday in Laging Handa, Agriculture Undersecretary Fermin Adriano said he was following the DOJ in its investigation of individuals allegedly involved in smuggling vegetables into the country.

“For us, we want the process to be faster so that it can serve as an example and discourage this [smuggling]Adriano said in Filipino.

Adriano pointed out that smuggling has a huge impact on Filipino farmers, whose products suffer from undue competition. “So the DOJ really needs to step up its prosecution and hopefully expedite it,” he said.

Earlier this month, Senator Vicente Sotto III identified four individuals allegedly responsible for smuggling vegetables into the country.

Adriano pointed out that the DA does not have the authority to apprehend and prosecute those involved in smuggling.

Meanwhile, he said an investigation continues to be carried out within the DA to look for people involved in agricultural smuggling.

He added that Agriculture Secretary William Dar had formed a committee of inquiry.

Dar said earlier that the DA will step up its efforts to root out corruption from the agency, stressing that it will file administrative charges against officials involved in the smuggling of agricultural products.

Regarding palm oil smuggling, Adriano said the DA is currently seeking reports of usage from importers.

“Our problem is, I think there was a loophole somewhere, where they really come in as animal feed. The only problem is that they didn’t track usage,” Adriano said during a hearing before the House of Representatives yesterday.

“Once they come out of port, the problem is that we didn’t know they could be converted into cooking oil until very recently because of people in the coconut industry,” said said Adriano, adding that he was alerted by Philippine Coconut Authority Administrator Benjamin. Madrigal last year on the problem.

Last week, Adriano said the DA had been investigating since last year the alleged smuggling of palm oil as animal feed, but which is turned into cooking oil for human consumption. He pointed out that palm oil as animal feed is taxed duty-free and not classified as a product to be taxed 12% e-VAT.

Adriano said the DA sought assistance from the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) who conducted an investigation in January 2022, the results of which were submitted to Dar in February.

The investigation revealed that there is a huge discrepancy between the volume of palm oil imports certified by the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) and those allowed entry by the Bureau of Customs (BOC).

ARTA data showed that palm oil inflow has been continuing since 2016, with imports registering 1.181 million kilos in the same year, based on BOC data. In contrast, BAI data recorded an import volume of 2.421 million kilos.

ARTA recommended that the DA conduct its own investigation into the data discrepancy.

The prosecution awaits the smugglers – Ping

Meanwhile, the presidential betting tandem, Senator Panfilo Lacson, and his running mate, Senate Speaker Sotto, have vowed to protect the farming industry and prosecute vegetable smugglers and their supporters if they win the election. .

Sotto said a vote for the Lacson-Sotto tandem in the May 9 election would be a vote tantamount to protecting the agricultural industry and its sector players as well as prosecuting vegetable smugglers and their backers.

Sotto said that if he and Lacson win in the next election, they will ensure that farm criminals are charged within a year of their administration, convicted and sent to prison before their six-year term ends.

“I call on our farmers, our fishermen, as well as our poultry and hog farmers to help us with the installation of Senator Lacson as President and Vice President of our country when we can finally stop and imprison the unions behind agricultural smuggling here,” says Sotto.

“It is unfortunate that in the six years of this administration, our government’s conviction rate has skyrocketed despite the arrest of so many suspected smugglers. Instead of being imprisoned, these evil spirits were overwhelmed and their illegal import of agricultural products became even more evident. This will not happen under the Lacson-Sotto administration. We are going to change this rotten system of government,” he said. – Cecille Suerte Felipe

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