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BOC already seized P2.7B worth of agri products in 2023 —Intel chief

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) on Thursday told the Senate committee on agriculture, food, and agrarian reform that they have already seized more than P2.7 billion worth of agricultural products, majority of which are sugar and onions.

During the interpellation of Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros, Customs Intelligence Group Chief Richard Rebong said they were able to confiscate agricultural products amounting to P2,769,917,188.17 from the start of the year until May 16.

While they have no data on the volume per commodity, Rebong said there were 34 instances of confiscation of sugar, 34 for onions, three for carrots, and the remaining amounts were for the seizure of seafoods and assorted fruits.

The Senate panel investigated the rampant smuggling of agricultural products and heard of recommendations on the proposed amendments to Republic Act 10845 or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act.

The lawmakers are seeking amendments to RA 10845 as they noted that no has been jailed for agri smuggling since the passage of the law in 2016.

Senator Cynthia Villar, chairperson of the panel, prodded the BOC to help them in amending the law, as she pointed out that the failure to prosecute smugglers is a "reflection" of the law enforcement agency.

“Ang impression ng tao kasabwat kayo kaya walang [nakukulong]. Kaya dapat turuan niyo kami para maka-perform kayo. Otherwise, ang sama-sama ng impression sa inyo. Ako, automatic sa akin na kayo ang may kasalanan kaya hindi nag-succeed ang law. So you have to tell us what’s wrong with the law so we can change it,” Villar said.

Villar said smugglers should be detained before the filing of cases to give them “enough punishment” for the crime.

“Ang spirit of the law is makulong bago mag-kaso kasi pag nakulong ang isang mayaman, grabe sa kanya yon. Enough punishment yon. Hindi na siya uulit. Kaya kailangan makulong siya bago mag-kaso kasi pag kaso mailalakad niya yon e. Mayaman siya e…Kaya nga e economic sabotage non-bailable. Tingin ko titigil ng pag-ismuggle pag nakulong kahit na temporary lang, kahit ma-dismiss ang kaso niya afterwards,” Villar said. —VAL, GMA Integrated News