We look forward to the investigation which lawmakers from the House of Representatives and the Senate want following reports on smuggled vegetables flooding local markets, with some legislators saying these could expose consumers and farmers to unchecked plant diseases.
In House Resolution 2263, the Makabayan Bloc in the lower chamber urged the House committee on agriculture and food to look into the matter, citing reports on the presence of small warehouses near Divisoria where imported vegetables were supposedly stored and are released in the markets when Benguet vegetable prices increase.
What happened to the city’s intelligence department? Have they failed to see these in their radar screens?
The House resolution said: “Vegetable disposers at the La Trinidad Trading Post in Benguet said that orders have drastically dropped due to the proliferation of smuggled carrots in Metro Manila, Cebu, and Cagayan de Oro, among other cities.
“From the previous 100 sacks of carrots a day, vegetable disposers said they are only able to dispose of at least 30 sacks of carrots a day.”
In the Senate, Sen. Francis Pangilinan himself sought a Senate probe, saying “Smuggled agricultural produce may contain invasive pests and host various diseases. The exposure of other food products to these goods poses a serious threat to the health of our people, the productivity of the agriculture sector, and our country’s food security.”
“As an example, smuggled pork from China was the culprit behind the recent outbreak of African Swine Fever in the country,” he said in Proposed Senate Resolution 922.
Assistant Majority Leader and Rizal Rep. Fidel Nograles, for his part, cited the need for immediate government intervention on the reports of smuggled carrots flooding Metro Manila, Cebu, and Cagayan de Oro markets amid the complaints of affected farmers and agricultural traders.
We agree with Nograles that these reports are alarming.
To think that the Filipino farmers are still reeling from the effects of low demand due to the pandemic-related economic slowdown, and then unfair competition suddenly slaps them.
This is a strong left hook to Philippine agriculture and we share the hope of Nograles that the Department of Agriculture will act swiftly.
Earlier, Lorna Menzi, a vegetable dealer from Benguet, told the media that demand for carrots dwindled and farm gate prices decreased due to the proliferation of cheap smuggled carrots. She also said that farmers are wary that rumors are circulating that smuggled broccoli and cauliflower will be the next ones to flood local markets.
Nograles warned that if not solved immediately, this would cause tons of local produce to rot.
“We call on the DA not to let this happen. Our farmers have already tried to compete with the smuggled goods by lowering their margins but they can only do so much. The solution lies in how fast the government will be able to help them by stopping the influx of unfair competition,” Nograles had said..
Agriculture Secretary William Dar earlier warned the public against buying smuggled vegetables due to the possible pesticide residue even as his agency has ordered the confiscation of all shipments that
entered the country without the necessary permits.
Pangilinan, citing Republic Act 10845 or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of
2016, called on the government to perform its duty to protect the agriculture sector, the local farmers, and the public from the manipulative schemes of economic saboteurs.
He said this is alarming and needs immediate action.
“From PPEs, testing kits, and face shields to even vegetables, why are the imported favored and why are our own not prioritized.”
According to the National Economic Development Authority, the agriculture sector suffered the biggest job losses.
Of the 3.4 million Filipinos who lost their jobs in June this year, about 1.7 million were farmers and fisherfolk.
He said farmers work hard but their income fell further due to the pandemic. They were tested by rice tariffication, African swine fever, and typhoons.
“Now it’s smuggled vegetables. Our farmers can barely breathe and stand up,” Pangilinan said.
Augusta Balanoy of the Highland Vegetable Multipurpose Cooperative said that a large volume of carrots was spotted in key markets in the country.
She said their counterparts in Cebu had alerted them that four container vans filled with carrots from China have been distributed in their markets on a weekly basis.
In its investigation, Balanoy’s group found that small warehouses near Divisoria in Manila have been releasing imported vegetables to Metro Manila markets whenever prices of Benguet vegetables rise.
Secretary Dar said in a Zoom meeting the smuggled carrots and cabbage from China had entered the market via Subic Port.
But we don’t think it is enough to identify where the port of entry was. The authorities must show the public that something is being done to correct what has been publicly exposed that bruises the sensitivities of the Filipino farmers. (ai/mtvn)