By Stephanie Sevillano

MISDECLARED ITEMS. Authorities confiscate PHP9.32 million worth of misdeclared items at the Port of Manila, South Harbor, Manila on Friday (Dec. 23, 2022). The two dry containers consigned to SB Express Logistics and Business Solutions contained yellow onions and used clothing that were misdeclared as plastic buckets, slippers, dishware and cat litter. (Photo courtesy of DA- Office of the Assistant Secretary for Inspectorate and Enforcement)

MANILA – The Department of Agriculture (DA) said Wednesday it has seized around PHP80.49 million worth of smuggled agricultural products in the three-day simultaneous operations in the country days before Christmas.

In a statement, the DA Office of the Assistant Secretary for Inspectorate and Enforcement (DA I&E) said it received information against scrupulous traders.

“The DA I&E received derogatory information regarding container vans consigned to Taculog J International Consumer Goods Trading, Asterzenmed Inc, and SB Express Logistics and Business Solutions for allegedly containing smuggled agricultural products,” it said.

This led to their simultaneous anti-smuggling operations with other government agencies, starting Dec. 21 to 23.

Most smuggled agricultural products were found in 12 40-foot container vans in ports in Manila and Cagayan de Oro.

These were misdeclared as frozen seafood, bread, pastries, plastic bottles, slippers, cat litter, and other household items, among others.

Almost PHP72 million worth of the total estimated agricultural products were yellow and red onions, while the rest were carrots, boneless buffalo meat and used clothing.

“The Department of Agriculture is preparing to file charges against the same for violation of the Food Safety Act of 2013 (or) Republic Act (RA) 10611 and the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016 (RA 10845) to ensure that these importers will be held liable for endangering the consumer’s health and the livelihood of our farmers and fisherfolk,” the DA said.

To date, the DA I&E said its team is still working on its intelligence surveillance and operations against erring traders.

The DA I&E works closely with the Bureau of Customs, the Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Plant Industry.

The DA, earlier, said it will continue with its intensified campaign against smuggling to help stabilize food prices in the country as well as protect local farmers.

Amid the confiscation of millions of pesos worth of smuggled onions, the DA maintained its position to exercise caution in issuing import permits to prevent the proliferation of smuggled onions in the market.

However, prices of onions continued to shoot up, as its maximum range has reached PHP720/kilogram in some markets in Metro Manila as of Wednesday. (PNA)