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BOC pledges to close “loopholes” in the effort to end agricultural smuggling

The Republic Act (RA) 10845, also known as the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016, is being effectively enforced, and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) is prepared to engage with other governmental agencies and the business sector to do so.

Commissioner Bienvenido Rubio is determined to end agricultural smuggling in the nation, BOC Assistant Commissioner Vincent Philip Maronilla stated during a public hearing held by the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Food, and Agrarian Reform on Thursday.

The executive committee meeting is in the Department of Finance, “meron lang po talaga. He is currently in an executive committee meeting with the Department of Finance. If no one is present, he would want to attend this meeting to prepare for and attend to it. Otherwise, he is dedicated to working with this committee and truly wants to be here to explain,” Maronilla added.

“If something needs to be changed on our end, we can assist one another in addressing these loopholes coming from our office,” the statement reads. “Kung man pong kailangang baguhin sa amin para tulong-tulong po tayong repasuhin itong sinasabing loopholes na nanggagaling sa mga opisina po namin.”

After Rosendo So of the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) addressed the issue of the BOC’s “vast involvement” in the rejection of cases involving agricultural smuggling, Maronilla provided assurance.

Therefore, I informed the committee that economic sabotage would not be applicable because the value of illicit products confiscated by the BOC typically decreases.

As determined by the BOC, large-scale agricultural smuggling is considered economic sabotage by RA 10845 if it costs at least PHP1 million or at least PHP10 million for rice.

Another issue The failure of some Customs officials to follow the development of cases brought against agricultural traffickers has come to light.

When the witness is Customs and the DOJ is handling the case, there is no need to humaharap or nagbibigay any paperwork. As a result, cases that are dismissed are those that were filed with the DOJ and the witness is from Customs, but they failed to appear or produce the required paperwork. These cases were then dismissed at the hearing, and these are the ones that we are aware of. Therefore, the official added that the cases are dismissed due to the Customs official’s absence from the hearing or the inadequacy of the supporting documentation.

In response, Maronilla reaffirmed that Rubio has previously directed the BOC to evaluate any active cases of agricultural smuggling.

We already met with Justice Secretary Remulla to discuss these loopholes our friends mentioned. We committed that the person in question is already there if any lawyers are present. The situation is still ongoing; the commissioner of Customs cannot be adumbrated so that the relevant items are put into the proper perspective.

The customs officer informed the committee that, starting in 2018, the BOC could file 179 cases of large-scale agricultural smuggling, totaling around PHP1.4 billion, of which 37 were not deemed large-scale.

Maronilla suggested a uniform examination for filing cases to the committee, claiming that the current statute leaves it up to the BOC examiners’ discretion and is vulnerable to abuse.

“If there is a law that specifies the value per kilogram of products as the basis, our officials will no longer have discretion,” he stated.

Maronilla also argued for creating initial border checkpoints where various government agencies might collaborate to protect and inspect the entry of various goods.

The committee, which Senator Cynthia Villar leads, is attempting to change some provisions of RA 10845 to define economic sabotage as including the activities of stockpiling, profiteering, and a cartel of agricultural products.

The law was passed to safeguard the local farming community from agricultural smuggling.

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