Anakpawis partylist Ariel Casilao is urging the Duterte government to investigate the botched smuggling of 1,359 metric tons (MT) of rice, which was seized by naval patrols from a foreign cargo vessel off an island in Zamboanga Sibugay.
He said rampant smuggling not only of rice but also of other agricultural products was the result of the continuing commitment of the government to importation under the Word Trade Organization in particular on the Agreement on Agriculture.
“Agricultural smuggling is only a reflection of the country’s continuing madness to import. Not only has it abetted corruption but it is also an insult to our farmers,” the Makabayan lawmaker said.
According to a report of the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG), in the years from 2013 to 2015, a total of P64 billion revenue losses were incurred by the government due to widespread smuggling of agricultural products, Casilao said.
This, he said, reflected a P32-billion loss per year, which is equivalent to the Department of Agriculture’s budget for 2016 and excess funds for the rehabilitation of the agriculture sector.
Also in a separate report of Dr. Jose Ramon Albert, a senior research fellow from Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), poverty statistics from 1985 to 2009 show most of those who were classified as poor had agriculture-related jobs, Casilao said.
“Aside from virtually no government subsidies to local rice farmers for procuring reasonable price of palay, agricultural smuggling which includes rice is further killing our local rice farmers’ livelihood,” he said.
“Worse, through smuggling, billions of revenues are lost. This wouldn’t be possible if not for unscrupulous government officials in the customs and other involved agencies in cahoots with smugglers,” Casilao said.