Press Release
November 30, 2023

Lapid hits agriculture smuggling, urges gov't to intensify campaign vs smugglers

Sen. Lito Lapid urged government, particularly the Bureau of Customs and the Department of Trade and Industry, to intensify its campaign against smuggling of agricultural products such as onions, garlics carrots, and rice, especially this coming Christmas season, which has greatly affected local farmers and those transporting farm produce.

During consultation with farmers at the La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Post in La Trinidad, Benguet, Lapid learned that rampant smuggling of agricultural products, hoarding and profiteering have affected the lives and livelihood of farmers.

"Kailangan na nating tapusin ang problemang ito. Ang mga ito ang nagpapahirap sa ating mga magsasaka na siyang nagpapakain sa atin (We need to put an end to this problem. These are the ones who make it difficult for our farmers who feed us)," Lapid said.

"Nakakalungkot po na sa kabila ng malaking ambag ng ating mga magsasaka para sa seguridad sa pagkain ng ating bayan ay sila pa ang nananatiling nakabaon sa kahirapan (It is sad that despite the great contribution of our farmers for the country's food security, they are still the ones who remain to be living below the poverty line," he added.

Because of smuggling, the senator said prices of local products plunged to unlivable levels for farmers.

He noted that smuggling discourages local farmers from continuing their production due to lack of satisfactory return on investment thus ultimately resulting to the demise of the industry.

On top of this, middlemen buy agricultural products from farmers at very low prices while loan sharks give out loans at usurious interest.

Lapid also assured farmers of his full support for the passage of the anti-agricultural smuggling bill. The senator is one of the authors of Senate Bill No. 2432 or the Anti-Agricultural Economic Sabotage Act. The measure was already in the period of individual amendment.

Rep. Eric Yap of Benguet's lone congressional district accompanied Lapid during the consultation. He said there is a need for a whole-of-government approach to stamp out smuggling.

House Bill No. 9284, also known as the Anti Agri-Fishery Commodities and Tobacco Economic Sabotage Act, was passed by the House of Representatives on Sept. 27. Under the measure, smuggling of rice and other agricultural products is classified "economic sabotage," a crime punishable by life imprisonment.

Benguet produces about 80 percent of the temperate vegetable production of the Cordillera Administrative Region.

According to the Department of Agriculture-Cordillera, an average of two million kilograms of assorted highland vegetables is traded daily, reaching Metro Manila markets and even as far as Visayas and Mindanao.

Earlier, 200 dialysis and cancer patients from this town received P5,000 cash assistance each from the senator.

Yap said Lapid has been silently providing funds that he distributes for the cash-for-work program, medical assistance, and financial assistance since he started his stint as the caretaker of the province in 2020, following the demise of elected congressman Nestor Fongwan.

He added that part of the medical fund for indigent patients at Benguet General Hospital also comes from the senator.

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