By Felix Cuntapay Jr
TUGUEGARAO CITY-Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Wednesday has pushed for an immediate inquiry of the Senate Committee of the Whole as an offshoot of his privilege speech to probe the alleged “large-scale smuggling” of agricultural products across the country.
Speaking before Cagayan Valley reporters including this correspondent in an online news briefing on Wednesday (Dec. 8), Sotto said smuggling and corruption have been reigning across the nation “which kill and destroy the local agriculture industry and robbing farmers a decent living.”Sotto said the laws that legislators make in an effort to “to modernize the agricultural sector in the hopes of uplifting the lives of our farmers” would be futile if smuggling and corruption continue to reign.”
He noted that the large-scale smuggling of agricultural products amounting to less than P1 million or a minimum of P10 million in the case of rice is “economic sabotage” under the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016 (Republic Act 10845).
He said the members of Congress, with its oversight function, would look into the issues of corruption and smuggling as these are the ones “putting us into suffering and extreme poverty.”
He noted that billion-peso smuggled goods in 25 operations were documented by the Bureau of Customs from May to November 18.
“We will never achieve our agricultural independence because some scrupulous individuals are in cahoots with the smugglers,” he said.He described port congestion, red tape, extortion, and under the table ways that continue to beset the Bureau of Customs and “burden the businesses,” he added.#