Wednesday, 20 June 2012 14:00
A senior administration lawmaker of the House of Representatives on Monday urged agricultural producers to abandon plans to stage a five-day "market holiday" as the two-week ultimatum for reforms in the Bureau of Customs (BoC) is expected to come to an end this week.
Batangas Rep. Mark Leandro Mendoza, chairman of the House committee on agriculture, said the planned market holiday would only unduly burden consumers and adversely affect the livelihood of agricultural workers and farmers.
Mendoza said that while the on-going dialogues between the griping agricultural producers -- hog growers, chicken producers and vegetable farmers, among others -- and the BoC have shown positive results, there remains no public assurance from the latter that the planned market holiday will no longer be carried out.
These agri producers earlier threatened to mount a market holiday if rampant smuggling of agricultural products would not be stopped.
AGAP party-list Rep. Nicanor Briones has said the hog and chicken producers, including vegetable growers, have now joined forces in calling on the government, particularly the BoC, to stop the rampant smuggling of agricultural products which resulted in P20 billion losses in government revenues.
Briones said they will give the BoC two weeks to stop smuggling of farm produce or they will launch a five-day market holiday nationwide, which means no pork, chicken, and vegetables will be sold in the market.
They also urged BoC Commissioner Rozzano Rufino Biazon to implement the Inward Foreign Manifest (IFM), which he earlier agreed to.
The IFM provides critical import data two days before the shipment arrives. It gives the Department of Agriculture (DA) information necessary to confiscate the smuggled goods and charge the suspected smugglers upon the arrival of the imported products.
Biazon, however, appeared adamant in giving in to the demand for the issuance of IFM, saying that information contained in the document could trigger insider trading, market manipulation and other unfair trade practices that could threaten both imports and local products.
The BoC official said he believes that he has already implemented most of the demands sought by local producers except the issuance of the IFM.
Mendoza appealed to the Swine Development Council (SDC), together with various organizations of agricultural producers, to give Customs Commissioner Biazon enough time and leeway to study the remaining demands he has yet to implement.
"I think a market holiday is too drastic, considering that Commissioner Biazon and (DA) Secretary (Proceso) Alcala have been responding positively to the demands of our producers. The public must be spared," he said.
Mendoza, who also heads the House contingent of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, said the BoC chief "must continue to open lines of communications with industry leaders and guarantee complete transparency in BOC operations."
He appealed to both parties to strike a compromise instead of closing the doors for reconciliation.
"I received reports that on-going dialogue could produce positive results. In the meantime, I am appealing to the SDC and other organizations involved to lift the threat for market holiday for the sake of our consumers," he said.
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