With President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. temporarily helming the Department of Agriculture (DA), former Buhay Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza couldn’t help but give the Chief Executive a piece of advice.
“As the head of the Department of Agriculture, we strongly urge the new administration to immediately and effectively address this long-festering problem of corruption which allows the continued entry of imported agricultural products that is hurting our economy and our local farmers,” Atienza said in a statement.
“We have the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) or RA (Republic Act) 10863, which has a provision that encourages pre-shipment inspection of all incoming container vans from their ports of origin,” he noted.
Atienza said the law was passed in 2016 during the time of the late President Benigno S. Aquino III. However, he claimed that neither Aquino nor his successor, President Rodrigo Duterte, used this provision.
“It is about time that the President, in this case Pres. Bongbong Marcos, does something against smuggling and takes advantage of this particular law. This is a piece of unsolicited advice from me, Mr. President, reminding you that you have a law that you can use to squarely address this huge problem of smuggling of agricultural products and illegal substances,” said Atienza, who is a former House deputy speaker.
Atienza, a former Manila mayor and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) secretary, has consistently called on government to implement Section 440 of RA 10863–which he himself had introduced–as a way of addressing the entry of illegal substances such as drugs and agricultural products.
He subsequently filed House Bill (HB) 2591 to amend the said section, making all cargo in container vans undergo mandatory inspection before leaving their ports of origin.
He said that of the average 10,000 container vans entering the country each day, only a measly 300 get inspected.
“This same inadequacy of the Customs Bureau [Bureau of Customs] in inspecting each and every one of the 10,000 vans that come in has allowed the entry of ‘shabu’ in many cases, with two of the biggest being discovered by authorities. And yet the vans continue to come in uninspected,” noted the former congressman.
“With the enforcement of mandatory pre-shipment inspection, all incoming containers of smuggled agricultural products would not be able to enter the country. Since the President has taken a keener interest in this growing problem of agricultural smuggling, we are confident that he will be different from the past two presidents who did not take advantage of this law,” Atienza stressed.