Published on November 16, 2023, 6:07 pm

Challenges Faced In Prosecuting Agricultural Smugglers: Non-Bailable Charges Proposed By Senator Villar

Expressing concern in a recent Senate session, Senator Cynthia A. Villar disclosed that out of the 15 cases filed by the Department of Agriculture (DA) against agricultural smugglers, five have already been dismissed by the courts. This revelation shed light on the challenges faced in prosecuting such illicit activities. To address this issue, Senator Villar proposed non-bailable charges for agricultural produce smugglers as a means to increase legal accountability.

During her statement, Senator Villar highlighted the arrest of a long-suspected large-scale smuggler of onions. She mentioned that the DA is currently working to build a case against the head of a group of companies accused of price manipulation within the entire onion value chain, which led to a significant increase in prices last year.

Collaborating with the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC), the DA is conducting an investigation into this matter. In September, the House of Representatives passed House Bill No. 9284, aimed at imposing stricter penalties on those involved in smuggling agricultural commodities. However, approval from the Senate is still pending for their version of the bill.

Recently appointed Agriculture Secretary Francisco T. Laurel, Jr., addressed senators during this session and emphasized his commitment to modernizing the agriculture sector. He expressed his desire to reduce import dependency by prioritizing technological advancements, modernization efforts, and improved logistics to lower production costs for local products.

The Department of Agriculture intends to align its plans with President Rodrigo Duterte’s objective of increasing production within the country. By leveraging technology and adopting modern practices, they aim to enhance efficiency and ultimately reduce dependency on imported agricultural goods.

It is imperative that these efforts are expedited to safeguard local farmers’ livelihoods while ensuring a stable supply chain for consumers across various sectors reliant on agricultural produce.

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