Lacson Scores Unabated Agricultural Smuggling Despite ‘Overregulation’

We’re already overregulated, but agricultural smuggling still goes unabated.

Sen. Panfilo “Ping” M. Lacson thus scored Tuesday the unabated smuggling of agricultural products into the Philippines despite so many laws and procedures in place to stop it.

He reiterated it is high time the Bureau of Customs completed its efforts to automate its systems to stop the corruption that has allowed such smuggling.

Related: Ping, Kinuwestyon ang Nakakalusot na Smuggling sa Kabila ng ‘Overregulation’

“Ang legitimate, overregulated. Ang illegal, walang regulation (Legitimate importers have a hard time due to overregulation. But the illegal ones don’t have to put up with regulations),” Lacson said at the Senate Committee of the Whole’s hearing on the issue.

Lacson said that if the BOC can be like other countries where all systems are fully automated, there would be little if any room for bribery and smuggling.

“That’s the ideal situation. Kung ganoon sana mangyari magdoble sana revenues natin (That’s the ideal situation where there is no human contact in transactions. If we can do this, our revenues will double),” he said.

Customs commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero agreed with Lacson, saying they are working to make their systems “faceless and contactless.”

Lacson noted the regulations of the government – from registering business names with the Department of Trade and Industry, to getting mayors’ permits, accreditation with the Bureau of Customs and Securities and Exchange Commission, to enlistment by the Department of Agriculture food safety regulatory authority as an importer, among others – should make it difficult if not impossible for smuggling.

Meanwhile, Lacson questioned as well why the DA has two agencies under it that issue Sanitary and Phytosanitary Import Clearances (SPSIC) – the National Meat Inspection Service and Bureau of Animal Industry – when only the NMIS is mandated to do so.

“Kaya magulo, kasi masyadong maraming ahensya (It is confusing because so many agencies are given this function),” he said.

“We cannot understand sa dami ng procedures, dadaan sa butas ng karayom, ang daming smuggling. Bakit ang daming carrots, broccoli at imported pork? Ito ang hindi namin maintindihan, lalo ng mga affected, they would never understand (We cannot understand that with the number of procedures such that importers have to pass through the eye of the needle, why is smuggling still rampant? So many carrots, broccoli and imported pork. This is something we will never understand, especially those who are affected),” he added.

“Ang suspetsa ko, hindi inter-agency cooperation. Inter-agency conspiracy, kaya lumulusot (I suspect not inter-agency cooperation but inter-agency conspiracy). I’m not referring to high-level conspiracy, I am referring to the personnel on the ground,” Lacson noted.