Fruit smuggling, alarming agricultural products – Salceda – Manila Bulletin
The sheer volume of smuggled and falsely reported fruit flooding the country’s wet markets has reached alarming proportions, said Albay 2nd District Representative Joey Sarte Salceda.
Salceda, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Made, expressed dismay at the continued illegal importation even as senators also expressed deep concern over the increasing smuggling of agricultural products and materials.
Before Congress left for the Christmas recess last week, Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III presided over a smuggling investigation by convening the full committee.
Salceda said the Ways and Means panel will resume its investigation into the alarming rate of smuggling of plant products.
The agricultural sector has attacked the alleged incompetence of the Customs Office to stop the widespread smuggling of agricultural products while others have argued for collusion with smugglers.
Salceda was particularly alarmed at a complaint from the Benguet Farmers’ Marketing Cooperative urging the Bureau of Plants and Industry to explain why South Korean strawberries are flooding the wet markets in Cebu.
“In our previous hearings on this matter, we asked the Bureau of Plant Industry to ensure that the inspection of plant imports meets standards. They stressed that they were not able to inspect every shipment, which makes these shipments vulnerable to misrepresentation, ”said the administration lawmaker.
Salceda referred to the House tax panel hearings in February 2021, which noted the BPI for the lack of strict mechanisms to prevent the smuggling of plant products such as fruits and vegetables.
“We have asked them to develop guidelines on their work with customs and on how we can ensure that imports are processed on time, but without false declaration or technical smuggling,” he added.
Albay’s Solon pledged to follow up on the request for BOC House panels, adding that a deadline will be set for submitting the required guidelines.
“If this is not intentional, it seems to me that the technical assessment processes are still lacking. For example, Korean strawberries are not included in goods allowed domestically under the Korea-Philippines Trade Agreement under the General Agreement on Tariffs-World Trade Organization (GATT- WTO). So something is happening, ”Salceda said.
During Senate hearings, the BPI asserted that imported strawberries were intended for use “by the Korean community” in the country.
“This is not a satisfactory answer. So I want to see how the import authorization process can be streamlined so that the rules are clear. Salceda also stressed that “a highly arbitrary import permit process endangers the country’s domestic agriculture, especially biosecurity hazards.” “Once the January session arrives, we will give a deadline for the BPI,” Salceda concluded.
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