Albay 2nd district Rep. Joey Salceda on Thursday, July 21, expressed support for President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s call against agricultural smuggling, as he emphasized the need for Congress to use its legislative powers to fix the “systems, processes, and policies” that will help in the fight.
The economist-congressman, who is poised to keep his chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement that the Department of Agriculture (DA) must work with Congress and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to fight the smuggling of agricultural products.
Congress, he added, has the obligation “to use its constructive powers as the country’s ultimate policymaking and implementation oversight body, and to use its investigative powers in aid of legislation, when there is inertia in the executive agencies".
“I prefer using our constructive powers, because that tends to work so much better. The grandstanding is set aside in favor of actually getting things done,” Salceda said.
The House Committee on Ways and Means has been working with executive agencies to curb smuggling of agricultural products since Feb. 2021.
“Although we will not hesitate to use our investigative powers, the House Ways and Means Committee always prefers to deal with problems systemically, rather than in a personality-based manner. If the systems are at fault, then no matter who or how many smugglers you catch, there will always be new smugglers to replace the old ones. So, we need to fix systems, processes, and policies. That is the work of Congress,” the lawmaker explained.
“We support PBBM’s call because this will strengthen our work with the BOC and other agencies to curb agricultural smuggling. We alerted the BOC and the other relevant agencies about the possible scale of agricultural smuggling in the country as early as February 2021,” he said, adding that the committee requested the bureau to form a task force with the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and other agencies to tighten the enforcement of laws against smuggling.
This came after the Senate received a report on the alleged rampant agricultural smuggling in the country.
The Bicolano reported that since the creation of the task force, it has been able to seize smuggled agricultural products at various entry points and warehouses.
He also shared that red onions appear to be the most smuggled agricultural goods.
The DA, for its part, adopted stricter rules in March 2021 through the issuance of Memorandum Circular No. 12 which establishes comprehensive biosafety and biosecurity guidelines and a plan of action for improving biosafety systems, Salceda said.
The move will help prevent African swine flu or avian flu.
Salceda shared that the committee also tasked the Customs bureau in October 2021 to focus on filing cases against the violators and in Nov. 2021, the PCG was requested to patrol private ports, which were suspected entry points for smuggled agricultural products.
The committee also revealed the issue of smuggled strawberries and palm oil to the attention of the public and the authorities.
This led to the investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) into the P45-billion revenue loss to the government.
“So, we already worked on the whole gamut of what you can consider agricultural smuggling, from illegal entry, to faulty biosafety inspections, to technical smuggling and misdeclaration. I prefer the House committee’s approach, because it is constructive. And I think, PBBM also prefers that approach, since it actually yields structural solutions rather than merely naming and shaming a few persons,” Salceda said.