NFA seeks tougher import permit regime for agriculture

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THE NATIONAL Food Authority (NFA) and the Bureau of Customs (BoC) have agreed to strictly implement the anti-agricultural smuggling act, and crack down on smuggling opportunities in the import process.

In a news conference yesterday, NFA supervisor and Cabinet Secretary Leoncio B. Evasco, Jr. said that the government will prevent import leakages in accordance with Republic Act 10845, which classifies large-scale agricultural smuggling as economic sabotage.

This followed an emergency meeting last week held by the office of the Cabinet Secretary with the BoC and stakeholders, in which they agreed on new measures to ensure zero smuggling.

Under the law, importers that misdeclare agricultural goods with a market value of P1 million and P10 million for rice, shall face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a fine twice the fair value of the smuggled goods.

The Cabinet Secretary said among the measures being considered are a stricter process for issuing import permits.

Mr. Evasco said that the Bureau currently allows commodities to be released pending an application for an import permit.

“There should be no exemptions. Violations will merit the seizure of goods,” said Mr. Evasco.

He also proposed that the bureau allow only up to 2% overlanding of rice as allowance for potential leakage and damages. This means that the country can only import up to 2% in excess of the allowed amount.

Also, the NFA supervisor wants the removal of freeport zones as points of entry for agricultural goods.

The measures will form part of a draft Customs order promulgating the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the anti-agricultural smuggling law, which was submitted to the Department of Finance for final review yesterday.

Mr. Evasco added that the authorities are studying the possibility of donating the seized goods to Department of Social Welfare and Development, to serve the needs of disaster victims rather than auctioning them to the importers who smuggled the goods in the first place. — E.J.C. Tubayan