Systemic approach vs smuggling | Company Applicant

A systemic approach, not a piecemeal and uncoordinated approach, is needed to win the fight against smuggling. This approach does not rely solely on the Bureau of Customs (BOC). To ensure transparency and accountability, it is important to have the collaboration and cooperation of other government agencies and the private sector.

Here we acknowledge the capable staff of the Philippine Public-Private Agriculture and Fisheries Council (PCAF) who are helping to pursue this ambitious approach: Juliet Opena, Frances Macalintal, Sara Bales, Bernard Masa and Marsela Perena.

During a Senate hearing chaired by Senator Cynthia Villar on October 18, Senator Raffy Tulfo named four people alleged to be behind agricultural smuggling: Michael Yang, Andrew Chang, Manual Tan and Lea Cruz. With the exception of Yang, the other three were already identified on April 2 in former Senate President Vicente Sotto’s list of agricultural smugglers.

Tulfo said, “This Michael Yang seems to be the kingpin of vegetable smuggling and he likes to befriend people in [Department of Agriculture].”

The issue is particularly important now, given recent discussions at the CFP.

Alarmed by the continuing rampant smuggling, the PCAF formed an anti-smuggling committee to address the problem. The catalyst was the August 19 report from the League of Associations of La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Area Inc., a member of Alyansa Agrikultura. The death threats they have received lately have succeeded in curbing their anti-smuggling efforts.

The committee said smuggling can easily be stopped if persons of interest are apprehended. Therefore, a meeting with BOC Commissioner Yogi Filemon Ruiz was scheduled.

Consensus

The consensus of the committee was that the fight against smuggling requires a systemic approach. He recommended the reinstatement of the successful Anti-Smuggling Oversight Committee, which included other ministries (Finance, Agriculture, Trade and Industry, Justice and Interior and Local Government) and a private sector representative from sectors of agriculture and industry. In the past, this committee met monthly with the BOC and reported its findings directly to the president.

Due to transparency and accountability, the smuggling rate decreased by 25% and 31%, respectively, during the period of the committee’s existence (during the time of former presidents Gloria Arroyo and Benigno Aguino III). Unfortunately, this committee was abolished, some thinking that it was because it was too successful. Its relaunch is currently being considered by senior government officials.

In the meantime, the fight against smuggling must continue. Alas, when the proposed meeting with Ruiz was scheduled, the latter said he received instructions from ‘superiors’ that he could not have the meeting without the DA’s explicit approval. When Ruiz was asked if individual farm leaders could meet with him, he also declined. When this topic was brought up with DA officials, they said they would not approve of it.

In the December 6, 2021, multimedia interview with then-presidential candidate Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. with a virtual audience of 229,000, he supported stronger anti-smuggling measures to combat “severe disruptions market and unfair commercial practices”.

Today, the government still uses a piecemeal and uncoordinated approach, relying almost completely on BOC for necessary anti-smuggling action.

This cannot go on. With the support of the CFP, our new government should now restore the anti-smuggling oversight committee using the systems approach. Government agencies and the private sector must meet with the head of the BOC monthly and report directly to the president.

With the transparency and accountability of this systemic approach, the fight against smuggling can succeed again, as has been clearly demonstrated in the past.

The author is Chairman of Agriwatch, former Secretary of Presidential Flagship Programs and Projects, and former Undersecretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Trade and Industry. Contact is [email protected]

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