CONTINUED smuggling operations undermine the goals of the rice tariff law of modernizing Philippine agriculture, improving farmers’ income and reducing the retail price of the staple food, said a senator on Monday.
“(T)he problem here is that it is not going down fast enough because the issue of smuggling remains prevalent,” Senator Mary Grace S. Poe-Llamanzares, presumptive chair of the Economic Affairs Committee at the upper chamber, said in Filipino.
The Rice Tariffication Law under Republic Act 11203, deregulated rice imports. It allows private parties to import with fewer restrictions with a tariff of 35% on grain brought in from Southeast Asia.
The tariff collection supports the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund to the extent of P10 billion a year.
Various sectors have been calling for an amendment or repeal of the law.
Ms. Poe, however, said smuggling is the more pressing issue that has to be addressed.
“Now that the President himself is sitting there in the Department of Agriculture, I hope those who try to smuggle or those who have already smuggled will be afraid. It’s the same people doing the same things until today,” Ms. Poe said.
Senator Maria Imelda “Imee” R. Marcos urged her brother, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. who has also designated himself as concurrent Agriculture secretary, to fiercely go after smugglers of agricultural goods.
“As a super sister, I want Bongbong to be angry. I want him to go crazy and name all the agricultural smugglers who are destroying our local farming,” she told the media in Filipino during an ambush interview on Monday.
“Hopefully, he will scare and file cases against all of those in the government that are well-known to be corrupt in the BoC (Bureau of Customs), BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue) and other agencies,” she added.
A report by the Senate Committee of the Whole in the last Congress indicated that around P667.5 million worth of agri-fishery products were “technically smuggled” into the country from 2019 to 2022. It also listed 22 government officials and personalities allegedly involved in the illegal operations. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan