By Wilnard Bacelonia

SMUGGLED. Some PHP150 million worth of smuggled agricultural products are seized by the Bureau of Customs after raiding 24 warehouses in Malabon and Manila on Feb. 17, 2023. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. had repeatedly said his administration will go all out in pursuing smugglers, hoarders and price manipulators of agricultural products. (Photo courtesy of BOC)

MANILA – The Senate has vowed to pass the Anti-Agricultural Economic Sabotage Act, certified urgent by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., before it goes on a five-week break starting Dec. 16.

Senate Bill No. 2432 was approved with amendments on second reading on Dec. 6 and is expected to hurdle the final reading on Monday.

Automatic ‘yun, kasi sinertify ng President. Pagkatapos ng second [reading], automatic sa third, kaya lang naki-usap si Minority Leader (Aquilino Pimentel III) na sa Monday na lang daw (That’s automatic because it was certified urgent by the President. After the second reading, it should automatically proceed to third, but the Minority Leader requested to defer it until Monday),” Senator Cynthia Villar, chair of the Committee on Agriculture, Food and Agrarian Reform and one of the bill’s co-authors, said in an interview over the weekend.

The bill states that there shall be severe sanctions on the nefarious acts of smuggling, hoarding, profiteering, and cartel of agricultural and fishery products as a self-preservation measure against the manipulative scheme of economic saboteurs, protect the livelihood of farmers, and plug leakages in tax and duty collection.

The bill likewise protects the State from tax evaders and non-payors of duties, and ensure the well-being of our agricultural producers and welfare of the consumers, and the economy as a whole.

Agricultural smuggling, hoarding, profiteering, and cartel shall be considered economic sabotage when the value of each agricultural and fishery product subject of the crime is at least PHP1 million.

“The penalty of life imprisonment and a fine thrice the value of the agricultural and fishery products subject of the crime as economic sabotage shall be imposed on any person who commits, or aids or abets the commission of, any of the prohibited acts,” the bill states.

If the offender is a government officer or employee, there will be additional penalties of perpetual disqualification from holding public, right to vote and participating in any public election; and forfeiture of employment monetary and financial benefits.

The bill also proposes an Anti-Agricultural Economic Sabotage Council, which will be chaired by the President or his designated permanent representative.

Villar said she would be available anytime a bicameral conference will be convened to reconcile disagreeing provisions of the Senate and House of Representatives’ versions.

Tingnan namin kung magbibigay ang House. Ako, anytime pwede akong mag-bicam (We’ll see if the House will agree. Me, I can attend the bicam anytime),” she said.

The House approved its version in September.

The bill repeals Republic Act 10845 or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016 and imposes stiffer sanctions. (PNA)