Press Release
May 18, 2023

Opening Statement of Senator Cynthia A. Villar during the Committee Hearing on Senate Bill No. 1963 or the Anti- Agricultural Smuggling Court
18 May 2023, Thursday, 10:00 A.M.
Sen. Recto Room

The bills that we are tackling today will amend certain sections of Republic Act No. 10845 Otherwise known as the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016, to include the acts of hoarding, profiteering and cartel of agricultural products as economic sabotage.

In 2016, the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016, was enacted for the purpose of protecting local agricultural industry and farmers from agricultural smuggling. However, we could barely feel the positive impact of this law.

Early this year, the Committee on Agriculture, Food and Agrarian Reform conducted a hearing in aid of legislation on the soaring market price of onions.

The committee found out that cartels over import onions thereby fixing the price of local onions. The hoarders, in collusion, store these supplies in the cold storage to create a shortage so that the price would go up. A clear scenario of price manipulation.

We were also baffled to find out that with all the issues on smuggling, hoarding, profiteering and cartel of agricultural products, no one has ever been convicted since the law was passed in 2016.

Through that hearing, this Committee was able to come up with the Committee Report No. 25 on the Soaring Market Prices of Local Onions, recommending the following:

1. Amendment of the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016 to include profiteering, hoarding and smuggling in its list of crimes involving economic sabotage;

2. Creation and establishment of the "Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Task Force" directly under the control and supervision of the Office of the President to serve and protect the entire agricultural sector;

3. Creation of an Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Court that shall try and hear the cases in violation of the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act, which is the subject matter of Senate Bill No. 1963 which I also authored and is now lodged in the Senate Committee on Justice; and

4. Creation of a Special Team of Prosecutors from the Department of Justice that shall be assigned to assist the Task Force in the expeditious prosecution of criminal and other cases involving economic sabotage under this law.

Thus, the filing of Senate Bill No. 1962 which we are hearing today.

According to a report of the Department of Agriculture - Inspectorate and Enforcement, a total of 2.1 Billion Pesos smuggled agri-fishery commodities were seized and a total of 42 cases were filed for violating Republic Act No. 10845 or Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016 and the Republic Act No. 10611 or the Food Safety Act of 2013, from October 19, 2022 to April 5, 2023. That is just for 6 months. The top agricultural commodities seized were sugar and onions.

The funds that the government should have collected from these duties and taxes could have been used to fund agriculture programs for farmers to improve their productivity and income, public services and infrastructure projects.

In the Committee Hearing on livestock industry, it was found out that we are importing more than our country's demand instead of just supporting through importation the deficiency in the local production.

According to the records of the Bureau of Animal Industry, for 2022, the highest meat importation accounts for pork with 710,362 MT, followed by chicken with 411,069 MT and beef with 186,152 MT.

However, based on PSA data, the demand on pork has been in a downward trend since 2019, from 15.67 kg/year per capita, to 14.17 kg/year per capita for 2021, but it gain increased to 15 kg/year per capita in 2022. Multiplying these data to the total population of the Philippines, it is clear that there is a surplus of supply of pork brought by imported pork products.

Based on PSA data, the demand on pork has been in a downward trend since 2019, from 15.67 kg/year per capita, to 14.17 kg/year per capita for 2021, but it again increased to 15 kg/year per capita in 2022. Multiplying these data to the total population of the Philippines, it is clear that there is a surplus of supply of Pork brought by the imported pork products.

For chicken, total production was estimated at 1.87 Million Metric tons of live weight while demand is at 1.62 vs. total importation of 485,861 Metric Tons.

The total production for Beef in 2022 estimated at 222,720 MT while demand is 270,408 MT. Imported Beef reached an estimate of 187,200 for the year.

For dairy, production is at only 31,160 tons while the demand is 3.12 MMT our import reached 3,584 MMT. We only produce one percent of our demand vs. 99% imports.

For onion, total production in 2022, 238.56 thousand metric tons, demand is 270.41 (thousand) Metric tons, vs import of 29.7 thousand metric tons but with stored volume of onions of 53,202 metric tons. There an indicative surplus of 51.05 thousand metric tons 2022.

With all the issues on smuggling, hoarding, profiteering and cartel of agricultural products, it is baffling that no one is prosecuted.

It is high time to amend the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling law. The issue is not only about smuggling but also hoarding, profiteering and cartel. Thus, hoarding, profiteering and cartel shall also be considered as economic sabotage under this amendatory law.

Thank you.

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