Call to pass bill to avert agriculture smuggling

A party-list lawmaker on Thursday appealed to Congress for the immediate enactment of a bill that amends Republic Act 10863, otherwise known as the Customs Modernization and Tariffication Act, to avert agricultural smuggling and improve trade facilitation.

Rep. Sharon Garin of AAMBIS-OWA, vice chairperson of the House committee on ways and means, made the call as the committee continues its motu proprio investigation on the reported rampant smuggling of agricultural products.

Garin highlighted the role of the Bureau of Customs during the discussion even as she sounded alarm over the staggering discrepancies between declared importations of trade partners and the records held by the BOC. The members of the committee concurred that it is necessary to review and streamline the procedure of importation of agricultural products through enhanced coordination with the Bureau.

As the principal author of House Bill 5548 and a key proponent of CMTA, Garin said that amendments are necessary to further improve the country’s international standing.

“It is to be noted that since 2017, the country’s institutional arrangement and cooperation rating plateaued at 55.56 percent from 2017 to 2019. Should the bill be passed into law, the country’s rating is expected to progress.”

She said the bill’s enactment will improve trade facilitation and assist the government in revenue collection. Provisions on the simplification and clear definition of some processes in the customs clearance of imported goods have also been incorporated in the bill.

In addition, stricter administrative sanctions, specifically on the supervision and regulation of third parties, are also being proposed to curb corruption and improve the efficiency of the Bureau, added Garin.

House Bill 5548 is in line with the administration’s continuing efforts to boost the country’s trade activity and adopt global practices. Garin hopes to improve the country’s ranking in the Top 25 developing-economy exporters, where The Philippines ranks 15th in the2018 World Investment Report.

The bill has been pending at the committee and that a technical working group chaired by Garin has also been created to discuss the proposed amendments to the law.

Garin stressed that the bill is in line with the efforts of the House of Representatives to create a conducive business environment that would attract foreign direct investments and aid the country’s economic recovery.

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