July 29, 2012
KIKO: POSSIBLE OVERHAUL OF IMPORTATION PROCEDURES
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan, says that a possible overhaul of importation procedures may be needed in order to curb the smuggling into the Philippines of agricultural and food products, as well as oil, vehicles, and electronics, among others.
According to BIR figures released in June, the projected total revenue loss from smuggling could amount to P200 billion for this year alone.
"Two hundred billion pesos is no joke," Pangilinan points out. "We are losing out on a very large source of taxes and revenue that could otherwise go to infrastructure, social services, and income for our farmers and fisherfolk because of smuggling and corruption. Imbes na napopondohan natin ang mga pangangailangan ng taumbayan, naiisahan tayo ng mga ganid at gahaman. Baka naman kailangang kilatisin at i-overhaul ang proseso ng pag-i-import para matupok ang korupsyon sa pinakaugat nito."
"There could be some serious flaws in the system that offer unscrupulous elements opportunities for corruption. If the procedures are efficient, we should see less opportunities, and therefore less cases, of smuggling and corruption, if none at all."
The Senate on Wednesday will begin an investigation on the rampant and incessant smuggling of foods--especially rice--into the country, with the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food acting as the lead investigating committee.
"Uusisahin natin kung bakit 'di matigil-tigil ang smuggling. Baka kailangan nating ungkatin ang buong proseso ng importation. Sino ang mga tao na nag-i-issue ng mga permit? Sa paanong paraan nailalabas ang imports sa pier? Sinu-sino ang mga nakapirma? Mabusising proseso ito pero dapat nating alamin gayung kaunting tao lamang ang nakakaalam ng proseso. Kinakailangang maging malinaw sa lahat ang sistema. Sa ganitong paraan natin malalaman kung saan nagkakaroon ng korupsyon at kung sino ang mga accountable dito."
In May of this year, Pangilinan called on the Bureau of Customs (BoC) to "shore up the drive against rampant smuggling of agricultural products" by making transparent importation information contained in the Inward Foreign Manifest (IFM).
The IFM is a list containing details about the products being imported into the Philippines, such as the importer's name, the source country, the shipping vessel, and the date of arrival. Currently, only the Bureau of Customs has access to this information, making it easy for unscrupulous parties within the agency to get involved in smuggling.
The Alyansa ng Agrikultura, a coalition of 42 federations and organizations representing all major agricultural sectors, has been advocating the automatic transmittal of the IFM from the Bureau of Customs to the Department of Agriculture.
The practice was done for a few years, but ended in 2009.
"We will look into all possible angles to crack down on these smuggling rings," Pangilinan says. "We will look into systems and processes, we will gather information on possible food smuggling rings or syndicates operating within the bureaucracy. Hindi biro ang smuggling dahil ang pinapatay nito ay ang ating agrikultura at industriya. Pinapatay nito ang kabuhayan ng mga magsasaka at mangingisda."
"We don't want to see the day when a food crisis will erupt in our country because of the death of our agricultural industry, so if massive changes will have to be made, now is the time to do it," the lawmaker reiterates.
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