MANILA — President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Friday pledged that his administration would continue the strict monitoring of illegal importation of agricultural products in the country.
Marcos gave the assurance during the distribution of around 1,200 sacks of seized rice to the identified beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) in the City of General Trias, Cavite.
Speaking before the 4Ps beneficiaries, Marcos vowed to exhaust all efforts to stabilize the prices of agricultural commodities, including rice.
“Alam niyo po, noong nagtaasan ang presyo ng bigas, ay tinitingnan namin saan nanggagaling ito. Hindi naman nagkulang ang supply. Hindi naman nagpa-panic buying ang mga Pilipino. So, bakit aakyat ang presyo? At natuklasan namin ang nangyayari talaga ‘yung tinatawag na hoarding. Tinatago nila. Mag-smuggle sila ng bigas, tinatago nila para tumaas ang presyo bago nilang bitawan para pagkitaan nila ‘yung malaking halaga (You know, when the price of rice increased, we looked at where it came from. There was no shortage of supply. Filipinos are not panic buying. So, why will the price go up? And we discovered what is really happening is there is hoarding. They are hiding it. They are smuggling rice, hiding it to increase the price before releasing it so that they can earn a large amount of money),” he said.
“Kailangan din namin na higpitan ang pagbantay sa illegal na importation ng lahat ng agri products. Kaya’t iyan ang aming ginawa at binigyan ko ng instruction ang Bureau of Customs [BOC] at sabi ko sa kanila imbestigahan niyo nang mabuti at hanapin ninyo ang mga illegal importer, ang mga smuggler ng bigas (We also need to tighten surveillance on the illegal importation of all agricultural products. So, that's what we did and I instructed the Bureau of Customs to investigate carefully and find the illegal importers, the rice smugglers),” he added.
The 1,200 sacks of rice distributed in General Trias are among the 42,180 sacks of imported rice that were confiscated following the BOC’s recent warehouse raid in Zamboanga City.
The forfeited sacks of rice were donated to the Department of Social Welfare and Development for distribution to the beneficiaries of its conditional cash transfer program.
Legitimacy of shipment
Marcos also bared his plan to shorten the 15-day period for importers to submit the necessary documents to prove the legitimacy of the shipment of their goods.
He said he is looking into the possibility of adjusting the timetable to seven days.
“At sinusubukan natin ngayon bawasan ‘yung 15 days into seven days. Dahil kung legal ka na importer, hawak mo lahat ng dokumento. 'Pag hinanap sa iyo ‘yan, bibigay niyo kaagad. So, bakit pa 15 days (And now we are trying to shorten the 15 days to seven days. Because if you are a legal importer, you hold all the documents. When you are asked for that, you will give it immediately. So, why would you wait for 15 days)?” Marcos said.
Under Section 114 of Republic Act (RA) 10863 or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, any party adversely affected by a decision or omission of the BOC pertaining to an importation, exportation, or any other legal claim shall have the right to appeal within 15 days from receipt of the questioned decision or order.
An appeal in writing shall be filed within the period prescribed in RA 10863 or by regulation and shall specify the grounds thereof. The BOC may allow a reasonable time for the submission of supporting evidence to the appeal.
On Tuesday, Marcos also distributed 1,500 sacks of rice to 4Ps recipients in Zamboanga City and Zamboanga Sibugay.
Marcos said the rice distribution will continue to make sure recipients have enough supply, as well as to address the adverse impact of smuggling and hoarding.
Also the head of the Department of Agriculture, Marcos vowed to address the problems besetting the industry by improving the production level and cost of agriculture products.
“At asahan po ninyo kung ano man ang mangyari pa, asahan po ninyo na gagawin po ng inyong pamahalaan lahat ng kailangang gawin upang hindi naman kayo maiwanan, upang hindi naman kayo mahirapan. At lahat po ng kayang gawin ng pamahalaan ay gagawin namin. Iyan po ay aming trabaho kaya po tayo nandito para tulungan kayo (And whatever happens, expect that your government will do everything that needs to be done so that you will not be left behind, so that you will not suffer. And we will do everything that the government can do. That's our job, that's why we're here to help you),” he said.
Marcos earlier issued Executive Order (EO) 39, which imposes a price cap of PHP41 per kilogram on regular milled rice and PHP45 per kilogram on well-milled rice.
He said he was forced to issue EO 39 to counter the smugglers and hoarders out to manipulate the prices of rice.
“Na-alarma talaga ako. Kung ako lang, ayokong pakialaman ang merkado ngunit hindi naman tama ang takbo ng merkado dahil kinakalikot nga nung mga hoarder at saka ng mga smuggler. Kaya’t naglagay tayo ng price cap (I was really alarmed. If it's just me, I don't want to interfere with the market but the market is not running right because it is being manipulated by hoarders and then by smugglers. That's why we put a price cap),” he said.
On Wednesday, Marcos certified as urgent the approval of Senate Bill (SB) 2432, a measure that imposes stiffer penalties against the crimes of agricultural economic sabotage.
Marcos emphasized the need for the immediate enactment of SB 2434 “to promote the productivity of the agriculture sector, protect farmers and fisherfolk from unscrupulous traders and importers, and ensure reasonable and affordable prices of agricultural and fishery products for consumers.”
The President expressed dismay that the rising prices and shortages in agricultural products was “partly due to the nefarious acts of smuggling. hoarding, profiteering, and cartel.”
Under the bill, the acts of agricultural smuggling, hoarding, profiteering and cartel as economic sabotage are committed when the value of each and agricultural and fishery product subject of the crime is at least PHP1 million, using the Daily Price Index, under Section 19 of the proposed law, computed at the time the crime was committed.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan on Thursday said Marcos’ economic team will present more options to address the increase in the prices of rice in the local markets, given that the mandatory price ceilings on rice is merely “temporary” and should be lifted, once the government already meets its objective. (PNA)