A number of agricultural players have pledged to work with the government to end the ongoing food product smuggling that has hampered domestic output and kept food prices high.

The Association of Fresh Fish Dealers of the Philippines’ Jon Santos stated in a statement on Tuesday that stakeholders from the business sector who deal with the issue on a daily basis must be included in the implementation of anti-smuggling legislation.

We are aware that smuggling is less common during warmer weather. It comes back after passing. For consistency, the system needs to take into account the role of us as stakeholders in law enforcement. So [the smugglers] always return when we let our guard down. We deal with this issue every day, therefore engage the parties involved,” Santos added.

Asis Perez, a former national director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, claimed that this week, the Department of Agriculture (DA) will bring multiple charges against alleged smugglers.

“Ad hoc and unstaffed, the organization that combats smuggling is currently the issue. The chief convenor of the agriculture advocacy organization Tugon Kabuhayan, Perez, stated, “We welcome the institutionalization of Assistant Secretary James Layug’s inspectorate and enforcement group in the DA.

He said that the ongoing smuggling of onions, rice, corn, sugar, carrots, fish, and pigs had a significant impact not only on farmers and fisherfolk but also on the security of the food supply in the Philippines.

In terms of revenue loss and taxable goods, he stated, “the continued admission of these illegal products into our nation is likewise endangering our economy.”

The Bureau of Customs calculated that as of the end of December 2022, it had discovered agricultural items that were being smuggled into the nation valued more than PHP1.2 billion.

Former Agriculture Secretary Leonardo Montemayor stated that persistent food product smuggling poses a threat to Filipino consumers, noting that unchecked importation is most likely to blame for animal and plant diseases that have plagued the nation like African swine fever and cocolisap (coconut scale insect).

Illegal imports have an influence on human health, plant and animal safety, as well as the income and output of regional farmers and fishermen, he claimed.

He calculated that the government lost an additional PHP8 billion in tariff owing to rice smuggling from 2019, when the Rice Tariffication Law was approved, and 2022.

“The bond should instantly go into effect if the reference price on the global market per metric ton is USD500 and the import declaration is USD400. This alone should act as a warning sign. Don’t release the importation until and until the exporter can explain properly, Montemayor commanded.

The Agricultural and Fisheries Modernization Act of 1997, particularly its requirements on data and quarantine, must be implemented, according to lawyer Elias José Inciong of the United Broiler Raisers Association.

He argued that a system of law enforcement must be established.

The President recently emphasized the necessity of ending smuggling. I steadfastly maintain that there is no structure in place to deal with the issue. Smuggling and unfair commerce may be prevented and stopped using the national information network, the inspection and quarantine system, and other tools. To stop smuggling, we need a data infrastructure for information and inspection points.