Press Release
September 2, 2015

Sponsorship Speech of Senator Cynthia Villar
Senate Committee Report No. 215
Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2015
Senate Plenary Hall
September 2, 2015

Mr. President, my fellow senators. I stand here today to sponsor Substitute Senate Bill No. 2923 (in substitution of Senate Bill Nos. 2082 filed by Senator Ejercito and 2765 filed by this representation), under Committee Report No. 215 or "an act declaring large-scale agricultural smuggling as economic sabotage, prescribing penalties therefor and for other purposes". This committee report was prepared and submitted jointly by the Committees on Ways and Means, and Justice and Human Rights.

The Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, which I chair, has conducted comprehensive Senate inquiries and public hearings on smuggling of various agricultural products. Binusisi na namin ang smuggling ng bigas, bawang, sibuyas, meat and offal at iba pa. Sa aming pananaw kasi, ang smuggling ang numero unong pumapatay sa agriculture sector, sumisira ng local agri-businesses, lalong nagpapahirap sa ating mga magsasaka at mga agri workers, at higit sa lahat, ito ay malaking threat sa food security ng ating bansa.

I cannot overemphasize the importance of the growth and development of the agriculture sector to our country--an agricultural country. Thus, it is the policy of the State to protect and promote the productivity of the agriculture sector and farmers from unscrupulous traders and importers, who by their illegal importation of agricultural products, especially rice, significantly affect the production, availability of supply and stability of prices, and thereby threatens the food security of the State. About 600,000 metric tons of rice are smuggled each year and about P200 billion lost to agricultural smuggling alone. Mas malaki pa ang halagang iyan sa total amount involved in the pork barrel scam, in fact.

Kung hindi natin hihigpitan ang penalties sa smuggling, mawawalan ng saysay ang ating mga efforts para palaguin ang agrikultura sa ating bansa. Thus, smugglers of agricultural products are really no less than economic saboteurs. As I cited on the bill I authored, some acts of smuggling are already punishable under the Tariff and Customs Code, but there are just some acts that are "too ruthless by its very scope, making it tantamount to economic sabotage".

Smugglers, using manipulative schemes, are sabotaging our economic well-being and are destroying the livelihood of our farmers. Hanggang ngayon po, ang mga magsasaka at mangingisda pa rin ang pinakamahirap na sektor sa ating bansa. Kung hindi natin susugpuin ang isa sa pangunahing hadlang sa kanilang pag-unlad--ang rampant smuggling ng kanilang mga ani o produkto--mahihirapan ang ating mga magsasaka at mangingisda na makaahon mula sa kahirapan.

Under the bill, "agricultural Products subject to economic sabotage" shall cover rice, sugar, corn, pork, poultry, garlic, onion, carrots, dried fish, and cruciferous vegetables, in its raw state, or which have undergone the simple processes of preparation or preservation for the market.

Under the bill, any person who shall import or bring into the Philippines, agricultural products without the required import permit from the regulatory agencies, or use of import permits of persons, natural or juridical, other than those persons specifically named in the permit; or any person who shall import agricultural products by means of fraud or by illegally obtaining the required import permit shall be guilty of the crime of smuggling, including those acts which are within the purview of technical smuggling.

The bill further provides that "the acts of agricultural smuggling, including technical smuggling, are acts inimical to the national interest, economic growth and development. Any person, natural or juridical, found guilty of engaging in agricultural smuggling, or technical smuggling of a minimum aggregate amount of One Million Pesos (Php1,000,000) worth of agricultural products subject to economic sabotage as defined, except rice, or has been found guilty of engaging in agricultural smuggling of rice, or technical smuggling, with a minimum aggregate amount of Ten Million Pesos (Php10,000,000), as valued by the Bureau of Customs, shall be guilty of economic sabotage.

Nadiskubre namin sa mga hearings na ginawa ng komite na iba-iba na talaga ang mga modus operandi ng mga smugglers. Smugglers have, not only become more aggressive, but creative and cunning in their schemes. Ginagawa nila ang lahat ng paraan para malusutan, or to go around existing rules and regulations as well as policies and laws.

Thus, we ensured that all the elements in the determination of the crime of agricultural smuggling as economic sabotage--whether by means of technical or outright smuggling--are covered on the bill. We were also elaborate in liability of persons to the crime of agricultural smuggling as economic sabotage--whether as principals or accomplices.

It is very necessary for the State to protect our local agricultural industry and farmers from unscrupulous traders and importers, who by the sheer volume of their illegal importation significantly affect the production and stability of our agricultural products. Lalo na, since this year n ang implementation ng ASEAN economic integration at mas magiging intense ang competition. There is a need for a relevant legislation to stop agriculture products smuggling in the country--a law which shall provide safeguards and indirectly increase income opportunities for local producers; which shall help reduce poverty among farmers and agricultural households in the country; and which shall ensure food security and stability. Higher sanctions for certain acts of agricultural smuggling, tantamount to economic sabotage must be imposed. Not a mere slap on the wrist.

Mr. President, esteemed colleagues, I earnestly seek the swift passage of Committee Report No. Committee Report No. 215 or the "Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2015 ".

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