Customs modernization law revision eyed to better fight smuggling

Human Rights

The House Ways and Means Committee is eyeing to propose amendments to the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act to boost the government’s fight against agricultural smuggling in the country and protect the livelihood of local farmers.

Albay Representative Joey Salceda said the House panel has been focused on working with the agencies to revise administrative issuances and policies, as well as creating the necessary legislative pressure to strengthen ongoing anti-smuggling efforts.

“I will constitute a Technical Working Group on possible recommendations that we can turn over to the next administration, particularly on amendments to the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act,” Salceda said in a message to reporters on Tuesday.

The committee, he said, would also finalize a joint memorandum circular between the agencies to strengthen anti agricultural smuggling measures.

He noted that they would hold another House hearing with the Bureau of Customs (BOC), Department of Agriculture, and other relevant agencies to keep abreast of developments to “tighten the noose” on agricultural smugglers.

Salceda highlighted the work of the committee with the different government agencies to debunk the claim in recent Senate hearings that the House has not yet acted on agricultural smuggling.

In compliance with a request from the House Committee on Ways and Means made in February 2021, the BOC created a joint task force with the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and other agencies to tighten enforcement on smuggling.

The panel conducted an executive session in March 2021 with the BOC and the DA, along with other relevant agencies, to strengthen anti-agricultural smuggling efforts in ecozones and ports, in response to biosecurity threats from the smuggling of plant and animal products.

Salceda said as a result of such discussions, the Department of Agriculture adopted stricter rules through the issuance of Memorandum Circular No. 12 which establishes comprehensive biosafety and biosecurity guidelines and a plan of action for improving biosafety systems.

By November 2021, the House panel tasked the PCG to strengthen its border inspections and patrolling to deter further agricultural smuggling.

During a Senate hearing on Monday, the BOC and the DA agreed that the digitalization of their system would boost anti-smuggling efforts.

BOC Assistant Commissioner Vincent Maronilla said the BoC is now working with the World Bank for its major automation project — the Philippine Customs Modernization Project.

He said BOC has already automated its clearance system in terms of its customer portal system, giving the public an option to transact with the agency online.

The bureau, he said, has also established an e-track system to monitor shipments entering the country via a global positioning system.

The League of Associations at the La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Areas (LALTVTA) said they are losing huge money due to the rampant smuggling of vegetables and fruits in the country.

LALTVA public relations officer Agot Balonoy told the Senate panel that their regular daily order of carrots declined by up to 40 percent or equivalent to PHP2.5 million per day since last year.

Source: Philippines News Agency