Two landmark legislations aiming to protect the interest of the agriculture sector have been signed into law by President Aquino.
These are Republic Act No. 10845 or the law declaring large-scale agricultural smuggling as economic sabotage, and Republic Act No. 10848 extending the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund up to 2022.
Under RA 10845, the government imposes higher penalties for large-scale smuggling of agricultural products as a “self-preservation measure to shield itself from the manipulative scheme of economic saboteurs.”
“It is the policy of the State 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 law read.
The new law declares economic sabotage any illegal importation of sugar, corn, pork, poultry, garlic, onion, carrots, fish, and cruciferous vegetables with a minimum R1 million, as well as rice with a minimum of P10 million.
The illegal acts include importing products without permits; using fake import permits or shipping documents; selling, lending, leasing, or allowing the use of import permits of companies by other persons; misclassification, undervaluation, or misdeclaration to evade tax payments; organizing or using dummy corporations to acquire import permits; transporting or storing agricultural products subject to economic sabotage; and acting as broker of the violating importer.
Any person who breaks the new law faces penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of twice the value of the smuggled products and aggregate amount of taxes. Officers of dummy firms involved in smuggling will be imprisoned for 17 to 20 years and pay a fine twice the value of the smuggled products.
Violators of RA 10845 will also suffer the penalty of perpetual absolute disqualification to engage in importation business.
RA 10848, meantime, extends the life of ACEF to 2022 to enable the government to use the remaining P2 billion for the sector. The ACEF, collected from import duties of agricultural products, is set to expire at the end of the year.
The law earmarks 80 percent of the fund for the acquisition and establishment of agri-based production and post-production and processing equipment and facilities.
At least 10 percent of the fund will be used for research and development of agricultural and fishery products while the remaining 10 percent will bankroll comprehensive grant-in-aid program for agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and veterinary medicine education.