MEMBERS of the League of Associations at the La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Areas (LALTVTA) are supporting a suggestion to give the Department of Agriculture (DA) expanded powers explicitly to tackle agricultural smuggling.
The suggestion comes from Albay Representative Joey Salceda, who is drafting a measure that would request the establishment of a DA unit solely tasked to “expeditiously pursue cases filed on agricultural smuggling.”
Salceda has also asked Agriculture Secretary William Dar to draft a formal measure for his request to grant the DA “police powers” to pursue smuggling.
Agot Balanoy, public relations officer of the LALTVTA, said that the move has the farmers’ support as one of the reasons for delays in catching smugglers is the lack of police authority to arrest suspects.
According to Balanoy, Chinese traders have come up with a new smuggling system where they sell straight to restaurant owners, with local farmers losing market share as Chinese carrots are priced around P10 to P15 lower compared to local crops.
Balanoy also claimed that Chinese crops are less safe for consumption as local crops expire within days while Chinese smuggled vegetables last significantly longer, which she claims is a sign of preservatives that may not be safe for consumption or food-grade.
Earlier, Agriculture Undersecretary Fermin Dantes Adriano also said that the powers of the DA are limited to cooperating with the Bureau of Customs (BOC), which is lacking for the purpose of going after smugglers.