The Department of Agriculture (DA) must undergo a major overhaul and thorough cleansing to effect changes. Marcos Jr. has no right to stay as DA chief and talk about starting structural changes if he does not uproot the masterminds and minions of large-scale agriculture smuggling within the DA and the Bureau of Customs. We believe that Marcos Jr. ought to quit DA if he cannot address the issues piling up and waiting to be addressed by the agency.
“We wish to remind everyone that Marcos Jr. still has not acted on the Senate Committee of the Whole report that identified major players and key personalities involved in massive smuggling of agricultural and fishery products from 2019 to 2022.” According to the report, some P667 million worth of agri-fisheries products were smuggled during the said period. Smuggling activities in agriculture are considered economic sabotage under Republic Act No. 10845 or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016.
As President and concurrent agriculture secretary, Marcos should have at least directed the Office of the Ombudsman to act on the report submitted by former Senate President Tito Sotto III. It was not a simple report nor list of individuals, it implicated ranking officials of the Bureau of Customs, and the Department of Agriculture, including former secretary William Dar,” according to KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos. The 63-page report submitted by the Senate Committee of the Whole last June included some LGUs and local mayors.
With this information on syndicated smuggling, the government can easily track and pin down all those who are responsible for large-scale agriculture smuggling which continues to undermine the livelihood of farmers.
Is Marcos Jr. dismissing Imee?
Even Marcos Jr.’s sister, Senator Imee Marcos, has kept on badgering Bongbong to act on agriculture smuggling but to no avail. Imee is the vice-chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food and the chair of the Committee on Economic Affairs. She recently castigated the illegal importation of some 300,000 metric tons of white onions, saying that smugglers are creating a supply shortage to justify bringing in more imported agriculture products. “What’s the beef between these two? Bakit kahit si Imee ay hindi pinapakinggan ni Bongbong kaugnay sa solusyon sa agri smuggling?,” Ramos asked.
KMP’s Rafael Mariano, for his part, said “if Marcos Jr. keeps on turning a blind eye and refusing to act on smuggling then we have all the reasons to believe that he is abetting bigtime agriculture products smuggling.”
Some of the names mentioned in the report were former BoC Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero, Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence Raniel Ramiro, Deputy Commissioner Vener Baquiran, and BOC Directors Jeoffrey Tacio and Yasser Abbas as alleged protectors of smugglers.
The report also named former DA-Bureau of Plant Industry director George Culaste; former Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Director Eduardo Gongona and Laarni Mary Roxas, formerly of the DA-BPI’s plant quarantine services division. It also listed the names of Tuburan, Cebu Mayor Jun Diamante, Gerry Teves, David Tan, Manuel Tan, Jude Logarta, Leah Cruz alias Luz Cruz also known as the “Onion Queen”, Andy Chua, George Tan, David Bangayan, Paul Teves, Tommy Go, and Wilson Chua.
The BOC also recently came under fire for the entry of 140,000 sacks of sugar from Thailand that reportedly used the Sugar Regulatory Administration’s Sugar Order No. 4 as justification for importation. #