In the special meeting of the Committee on International Trade (CIT) on April 26, 2022, Assistant Secretary for the Department of Agriculture (DA)-Wide Field Inspectorate Federico Laciste, Jr. reported the recent anti-smuggling operations conducted by the Sub-Task Group on Economic Intelligence (STG-IE) in key areas.

The team concentrated in Navotas, Divisoria, Malabon, Bulacan, Quezon, Subic Port, Cagayan De Oro Port, and Manila Port.

He also recounted that from 2019 to 2022, the Compliance and Regulatory Enforcement for Security and Trade Office and the STG-IE intercepted more than PhP473M-worth of smuggled agricultural and fishery products. More than half of this is composed of assorted vegetables at an estimated value of PhP146.7M, while red onions contributed to 21% of the total at PhP100.5M in estimated value.

“Smuggling does not only mean misdeclaration of documents and/or products, but it also means that there are no food safety measures. There’s no traceability and responsibility,” Feedmix Specialist, Inc. II Vice President Norberto Chingcuanco emphasized.

ASec. Laciste also discussed the terms of reference of STG-IE, as an information gathering and law enforcing group against smuggling, in relation to the creation of the Anti-Smuggling Oversight Committee being proposed by CIT.

The multi-stakeholder Anti-Smuggling Oversight Committee, which will be headed by the private sector, will assist in the government’s anti-smuggling control measures, especially on agricultural and fishery products.

In line with this, the body reviewed the draft template of smuggling complaint reports that will be used by the Committee. It was agreed that the form should be simplified and made into a one-page form.

Agot Balanoy, Public Information Officer of the League of Associations at the La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Post, also commented that the confidentiality of the information to be provided by future complainants shall be assured.

CIT will then arrange another special meeting on April 27, 2022 to finalize the form template and its processing by which confidentiality of information shall be guaranteed.

Given that only the Bureau of Customs has a regulatory function on anti-smuggling, it was also suggested during the meeting to review the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Republic Act 10845, otherwise known as the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016, for possible provision of the same function to DA.

Currently, DA is intensifying its efforts against smuggling of agricultural products that resulted in farmers’  undue competition in the local market. | JCL