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“We don’t want smugglers to get away with a mere slap on the wrist. Smuggling is a crime that not only affects the consumers, it also threatens the livelihood of farmers and fisher folks,” Villar said.
Villar, chair of the Committee on Agriculture and Food, also stressed that the modus operandi of traders who uses cooperatives to smuggle goods into the country will be an act of economic sabotage under the bill.
Senate Bill 2765 or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2015 seeks to penalize with a fine of equal to twice the fair value of the smuggled articles and imprisonment of six to twelve years the smuggling of any agricultural commodity or product, whether plant based, animal based, raw or processed, including any commodity or product derived from livestock that is available for human or livestock consumption.
“By definition, this includes fish, forestry, seeds, poultry and dairy products that have undergone various degrees of processing,” Villar added.
Also under the bill, the act will be punishable by a fine equal to the aggregate amount of the taxes, duties and other charges avoided; confiscation of smuggled articles; cancellation and revocation of business license, import permits, and other pertinent documents for importation; and perpetual disqualification to import agricultural products.
Economic sabotage is defined as any act or activity which undermines, weakens or renders into disrepute the economic system or viability of the country or tends to bring out such effects and shall include, among others, price manipulation to the prejudice of the public especially in the sale of basic necessities and prime commodities.
Any person who shall import or bring into the Philippines agricultural products without the required import permit from the implementing agency, or any person who shall import agricultural products by means of fraud or by illegally obtaining the required import permit shall be guilty of the crime of smuggling, including those acts which are within the purview of technical smuggling.
Any person regardless of nationality or citizenship found guilty of engaging in agricultural smuggling, or technical smuggling thereof, of a minimum aggregate amount of P5 million worth of agricultural products or has been found guilty of engaging in agricultural smuggling of rice, or technical smuggling thereof, with a minimum aggregate amount P10 million as valued by the Bureau of Customs, shall be guilty of economic sabotage.
When the offender is a juridical person, criminal liability shall attach to its president, chief operating officer or manager. In addition, the business permit or licenses of the business entity shall be revoked or cancelled.
The following shall be considered as principals to the crime of economic sabotage;
· Traders who prey on cooperatives and by using their permits for purposes of smuggling;
· The officers of the cooperatives who knowingly sell, lend, lease, assign, allow the unauthorized usage of their import permits for purposes of smuggling ;
· Traders who deliberately use dummy corporations, non-government organizations, associations for purposes of smuggling;
· The officers of dummy corporations, non-government organizations, associations, who knowingly sell, lend, lease, assign, allow the unauthorized usage of their import permits for purposes of smuggling and;
· The broker of violating importers.
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