EVEN as members of the League of Associations at the La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Areas (LALTVTA) continue to clamor for tighter and more proactive measures to protect the local farmers from the negative impact of smuggled vegetables, yet another shipment has been nabbed by the Bureau of Customs (BOC).
BOC officers discovered an estimated P5 million worth of suspected smuggled agricultural products in three warehouses in Manila this Wednesday.
BOC Commissioner Bienvenido Rubio said agents from the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service at the Manila International Container Port (CIIS-MICP), the National Bureau of Investigation-Anti-Organized and Transnational Crime Division (NBI-AOTCD) held inspections in three warehouses in the districts of San Nicolas and Binondo, which yielded “hundreds” of crates of produce.
The inspection turned up P2 million worth of fresh, imported broccoli in San Nicolas, and P3 million worth of assorted vegetables and fruits in Binondo.
“These were just the initial assessment of the value of these goods. There will be a thorough inventory and inspection of the goods found to determine the exact value, so we can file the appropriate cases against the owners of the warehouses and the companies and people behind these smuggling activities,” Rubio said.
Warehouse owners will be given 15 days to present documents to prove that they are not storing smuggled commodities.
If documents are not provided to prove legitimacy of the produce, the warehouse owners will be hit with charges for violation of misdeclaration in goods declaration, in relation to Section 1113, relating to property subject to seizure and forfeiture, of Republic Act 10863 known as the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA).
Agot Balanoy, spokesperson for the Benguet-based LALTVTA, said that continued oversupply due to supposed smuggled vegetables from neighboring Asian countries, as well as excessive importation from partner countries in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which allows for trade and easy imports of specific crops from other members of the pact, have been factors contributing to the continued low prices and low profit margins of the farmers
With such losses, Balanoy and the LALTVTA are calling for the revival of proposed task forces to fight smuggling and address farmer complaints.
Merely months ago in 2023, fake vegetables were found in lowland markets labeled as being sold by highland growers from areas where said crops are not produced at export quantity under the label of A.B.C. Baguio.
According to Balanoy, the problem has been ongoing since July of that year, and the smuggling issue goes further back. She says that the agriculture department has been appraised of the issues but has yet to act.