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Senate panel recommends creation of anti-agri smuggling task force

The Senate committee on agriculture, food, and agrarian reform has recommended the creation of an anti-agricultural smuggling task force.
The suggestion is contained in Committee Report No. 25, which was released following the Senate panel's investigation into the soaring market prices of local onions.
The proposed task force will be directly under the control and supervision of the Office of the President to serve and protect the entire agricultural sector and not only the onion industry.
A special team of prosecutors from the Department of Justice will be assigned to assist the task force in the expeditious prosecution of criminal and other cases involving economic sabotage.
The panel also suggested the creation of a special court under the supervision of the Supreme Court that would try and hear cases in violation of this law.
"This will ensure preferential attention to cases of economic sabotage so that profiteers, hoarders, and smugglers will be brought to justice and [given a] speedy trial and will be rendered accordingly," the report read.
The committee also recommended the establishment of post-harvest services for onion farmers, like cold storage facilities, and providing the same either through farmer cooperatives or government facilities.
These post-harvest facilities should be strategically located to ensure accessibility to farmers at a lower cost.
Meanwhile, the Senate panel said importation, if necessary, must be "logically scheduled" so it will not impede and completely compete with local production and harvest.
"The import volume must be correctly established, and such must be only for purposes of providing the needed supply in the market," the committee recommended.
It also reiterated the need to amend the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016 to include profiteering, hoarding, and smuggling in its list of crimes involving economic sabotage.
Senator JV Ejercito has already filed a bill seeking to amend this law.
The committee report was signed by its panel chairperson, Cynthia Villar, Senators Imee Marcos, Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa, Francis Tolentino, Nancy Binay, Sherwin Gatchalian, Ramon Revilla Jr., Bong Go, Robin Padilla, Mark Villar, Risa Hontiveros (may interpellate/amend), Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda, Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, Minority Leader Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III (will interpellate), and Ejercito. — VBL, GMA Integrated News