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Amid raids, group asks if agri smugglers are going to jail

The separate raids conducted in 24 warehouses located in Manila and Malabon that yielded allegedly smuggled agricultural products, including onions, were among the various operations organized by authorities in the last few weeks. 

According to a "24 Oras" report by Maki Pulido, authorities estimated the value of the smuggled products at P150 million.  

The Bureau of Plant Industry said it will test the products to determine if they are safe for consumption.

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) said it is preparing to file a complaint against the operators of the warehouses.

The advocacy group Bantay Bigas lauded the government for the crackdown, but lamented that smugglers appeared to go unpunished.

"Every government may nilalabas na pangalan pero ano nangyari? Walang nangyayari, walang nakakasuhan walang napapanagot kaya tumitindi ang pangil ng mga smuggler at importers," Cathy Estavillo, the group's  spokesperson, said.

The BOC has yet to issue a response to the statement, but said it is studying how to speed up the resolution of the cases it filed.

Bantay Bigas said smuggling has been a bane to the country's farmers as the illegal products not only pose unfair competition by being sold cheap.

According to the website of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture, it was said that based on its study, from 1986 to 2009, rice, sugar, beef and onions were the top four smuggled agricultural products.

The Department of Agriculture, meanwhile, estimates that from 2019 up to 2022, a total of P667.5 million agri-fishery products were smuggled in the country.

Around P1.99 billion worth of smuggled products were seized by the BOC. —LDF, GMA Integrated News