By Mortz C. Ortigoza
DAGUPAN CITY – Smugglers of agricultural products beware!
The Bureau of Customs and the Department of Finance have released recently the Customs Administrative Order (CAO) No. 2-2017 that empowers the government to sue smugglers of agricultural products and incarcerate them without the benefit of bail based on the certain amount as provided by law.
The Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016, where the CAO was based, cited that a penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of twice the fair value of the smuggled agricultural product and the aggregate amount of the taxes, duties and other charges avoided shall be imposed on any person who commits any of the acts enumerated under Section 3 of the Act.
Section 3 cited the crime of large-scale agricultural smuggling as economic sabotage, involving sugar, corn, pork, poultry, garlic, onion, carrots, fish, and cruciferous vegetables, in its raw state, or which have undergone the simple processes of preparation or preservation for the market, with a minimum amount of one million pesos, or rice, with a minimum amount of ten million pesos, as valued by the Bureau of Custom.
The CAO will take effect within 15 days from publication at the Official Gazzette or a newspaper of national circulation.
The CAO was signed by Custom Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon and Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III.
Lately, Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura’s Chairman Rosendo So lamented the inaction of the government in sueing those sugar smugglers arrested last year in Barangay Taluksangay, Zamboanga City and those rice smugglers whose cargoes were seized at the South Harbor in the Port of Manila last August 20, 2016.
Bantay Dagat’s operatives apprehended the crew of M/B Sitti Aini, loaded with those 584 bags of refined sugar. The crew of two other boats was nabbed by the operatives in the same place.
The twelve container vans carrying those imported rice from China arrived at the South Harbor in the Port of Manila last August 20, 2016.
The consignor declared them to be filled with leatherette but was found by Bureau of Customs officials to contain smuggled rice worth P20 million.
They were consigned to RPR International Trading in Sta. Cruz, Manila.
The other shipments of smuggled rice were discovered in November 7 and 13, 2016. The 26 shipping containers worth P40 million were seized at the Manila International Container Port.
Excerpts of the other higher and lower penalties of Republic Act No. 10845 (Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016) as implemented on the CAO:
“Imprisonment of not less than 17 years, and a fine of twice the Fair Value of the smuggled agricultural product and the aggregate amount of the taxes, duties, and other charges avoided shall be imposed on the offices of dummy corporations, non-government organizations, associations, corporations, or single proprietorship who knowingly sell, lend, lease, assign, consent, or allow the unauthorized use of their Import Permits for purposes of smuggling; The penalty of imprisonment of not less than 12 years but not more than 14 years and a fine equal to the Fair Value of the smuggled agricultural product subject to economic sabotage and the aggregate amount of the taxes, duties, and other charges avoided shall be imposed on the following: The registered owner and its lessee or charterer, in case of lease of a chartered boat, motored commercial vessel of three gross tonnage or less, who knowingly transports the agricultural product subject to economic sabotage regardless of quantity; or the registered owner and its lessee in case of lease of less than six wheeler trucks, vans, and other means of transportation, who knowingly transports the agricultural product subject to economic sabotage, regardless of quantity."