By Stephanie Sevillano

Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. (PNA file photo)

MANILA – The Department of Agriculture (DA) is set to blacklist four traders as it ramps up its crackdown on unscrupulous importers and smugglers of agricultural products.

“You will see in the next few months, marami akong iba-blacklist na kumpanya, iyong mga smugglers, kasi (I will blacklist a lot of companies, those smugglers, because) that’s economic sabotage,” Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. told reporters in a dinner discussion on Wednesday.

He said these include four importers of rice, fish, and sugar.

Laurel said the DA is also imposing stricter compliance of the declaration of sanitary and phytosanitary import clearance (SPSIC) before unloading in the country’s ports.

Gumawa ako ng bagong rule na kapag umalis iyong barko mula sa origin, after 24 hours, kailangan i-declare nila (I came up with a new rule that ships should declare their cargoes within 24 hours after leaving their ports of origin) by email to BOC (Bureau of Customs), to us, to DA-IE (Department of Agriculture-Inspectorate and Enforcement) kung ano iyong valid SPSIC na pwede nilang gamitin sa barko. Ngayon hindi na sila makakalusot (what are their valid SPSIC which they can use for the ship. They can’t get away now),” he said.

Laurel earlier ordered the cancellation of the SPSIC issued to a rice importer in Batangas after declaring only 20 percent of the total shipment.

He said the DA will also enter into an agreement with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which monitors the importation of processed goods, for more stringent border measures to help resolve agricultural smuggling.

Nag-usap na kami ni DG (FDA Director General Samuel) Zacate. We agreed na mag-MOU (memorandum of understanding) na kami dalawa (I talked with DG Zacate. We agreed to have an MOU), within the year. And they will deputize the DA-IE to be their enforcement also,” he said.

He said the move is necessary considering a “disconnect” within the system which some importers are taking advantage of.

Doon sa loophole na sinasabi na processed goods ito, tapos ipapasok nila, sa harap processed goods, sa likod agri na Peking duck or whatever kasi ang (It’s about that loophole where they declare it as processed goods but, in reality, are agricultural products like frozen Peking duck or whatever because the) processed goods are not under DA, it’s under FDA,” he said. (PNA)