The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines –The Senate is to open an inquiry on Wednesday into rampant smuggling which deprives the government of an estimated P200-billion revenues annually, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said on Sunday.
“Two hundred billion pesos is no joke,” Pangilinan pointed out. “Because of smuggling and corruption, 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. There is certainly a need to examine and overhaul the importation process to hit corruption at its roots,” he said.
He said serious flaws in the system could be providing “unscrupulous elements opportunities for corruption.” If procedures are efficient, there should be, he said, “fewer opportunities, and therefore fewer cases, of smuggling and corruption, if none at all.”
The first focus of the Senate probe on Wednesday is the rampant smuggling of food—especially rice—into the country, with the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food acting as the lead investigating committee.
“We will examine how smuggling has not been deterred. We perhaps need to assess the entire importation process. Who issue permits? How do imports leave the pier? Who signs papers? The entire process should be clear to all. Only then can we find out how corruption happens and who should be held accountable for this.”
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 of 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. Smuggling kills agriculture and industry. It kills the livelihood of farmers and fishermen.”