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Both Houses of Congress approve similar versions of Agricultural Smuggling as Economic Sabotage

The House of Representatives, voting 135-0, passed on third and final reading Monday night a bill seeking to declare large-scale agricultural smuggling as economic sabotage and punishable by life imprisonment.

The House unanimously approved House Bill 6380 or the proposed “Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act,” which substituted House Bill 6171 authored by Rep. Delphin Gan Lee (Party-list, AGRI), HB 6209 by Rep. Conrado M. Estrella III (Party-list, ABONO), HB 6259 by Rep. Romero S. Quimbo (2nd District, Marikina City), and HB 6306 by Rep. Mark A. Villar (Lone District, Las Piñas City).

Quimbo, chairman of the House committee on ways and means, which endorsed the plenary approval of the bill.

With the adverse effects of agricultural smuggling to the government budget, food security, poverty alleviation, and its connection to all other national concerns, Quimbo said there is thus the need to strengthen laws to deter its commission.

The Senate version principally authored by Senator Cynthia Villar which passed in October 19, 2015 and the House bills both declare that it is a State policy to promote the productivity of the agriculture sector and to protect farmers from unscrupulous traders and importers who, by their illegal importation of agricultural products, especially rice, significantly affect the production, availability of supply and stability of prices, and the food security of the State.

The State shall impose higher sanctions on large-scale smuggling of agricultural products, as a measure to shield the agricultural sector from the manipulation of economic saboteurs, and to protect the livelihood of farmers and ensure their economic well-being.

The bill defines economic sabotage as “any act or activity which undermines, weakens or renders into disrepute the economic system or viability of the country or tends to bring out such effects and shall include, among others, price manipulation to the prejudice of the public especially in the sale of basic necessities and prime commodities.”

It refers to agricultural product as “any agricultural commodity or product, whether plant based, animal based, raw or processed, including any commodity or product derived from livestock that is available for human or livestock consumption. This definition includes fish, forestry, seeds, poultry and dairy products that have undergone various degrees of processing.”

It provides that the crime of large-scale agricultural smuggling as economic sabotage, involving sugar, corn, pork, poultry, garlic, onion, carrots, fish, and cruciferous vegetables, in their raw state, or which have undergone the simple processes of preparation or preservation for the market, with a minimum amount of P1 million, or rice with a minimum amount of P10 million, as valued by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) is deemed committed through the following acts:

— Importing or bringing into the country without the required import permit from the regulatory agencies;

— Using import permits of persons, natural, juridical or entities without juridical personality other than those specifically named in the permit;

— Using fake, fictitious or fraudulent import permits or shipping documents, names of natural or juridical persons or entities without juridical personality, and addresses of consignee;

— Selling, lending, leasing, assigning, consenting or allowing the use of import permits of corporations, nongovernment organizations (NGOs), associations, cooperatives, or single proprietorships by other persons;

— Misclassification, undervaluation or misdeclaration upon the filing of import entry and revenue declaration with the BOC to evade the payment of rightful taxes and duties due to the government;

— Organizing or using corporations, NGOs, cooperatives, single proprietorships to acquire import permits;

— Transporting or storing the agricultural product subject to economic sabotage regardless of quantity; or

— Acting as broker of the violating importer.

Any person who commits any of these acts shall be penalized with life imprisonment and a fine of twice the fair value of the smuggled agricultural product in the abovementioned kind and value, and the aggregate amount of the taxes, duties and other charges legally due on the said smuggled agricultural product.

The bill provides for a penalty of 17 to 20 years of imprisonment, and a fine of twice the fair value of the smuggled agricultural products and the aggregate amount of taxes, duties and other charges avoided, to the officers of dummy corporations and other entities who knowingly sell, lend, lease, assign, consent or allow the unauthorized use of their import permits for purposes of smuggling.

Meanwhile, imprisonment of 14 to 17 years and a fine equal to the fair value of the smuggled agricultural product and the aggregate amount of taxes, duties and other charges avoided, shall be imposed on the registered owner and its lessee of boats, vessels, trucks, vans and other means of transportation used in the transport of smuggled agricultural products subject to economic sabotage.

The same penalty awaits the owner and lessee of a warehouse or property, who knowingly stores the smuggled agricultural product. The same penalty shall also be imposed on the registered owner, lessee, president or chief executive officer of the private port, fish port, fish landing sites, resorts, airports, who knowingly allow agricultural smuggling.

If the offender is a government official or employee, the penalty shall be the maximum as hereinabove prescribed and the offender shall suffer an additional penalty of perpetual disqualification from public office, to vote and to participate in any public election.

Collated from balita.ph

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