A consumer group is urging the government of the Philippines to focus on food rather than tobacco in its anti-smuggling efforts, reports the Inquirer.
“Given the rising prices of pantry basics like onions, the government is correct in taking steps to curb agriculture smuggling, but for some reason, some of our legislators would rather waste time picking on the tobacco industry,” said Simoun Salinas, spokesperson of Malayang Konsumer.
“The issue here is food security. Food for the Filipinos should be the priority.”
Senate Bill 1812 aims to amend Republic Act 10845—the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016—to include unprocessed and processed tobacco products in the same category as rice, sugar, vegetables, meat and other essential food products entitled to protection against smuggling. Under the act, large-scale smuggling of these products is considered “economic sabotage.”
“Why give special treatment to tobacco products and why now?” asked Salinas. “Why prioritize tobacco and cigarettes when in fact they are vices that are harmful to our health especially to our children.”
An explanatory note of the proposed bill stated that the “ultimate goal is safeguarding our farmers, consumers and the agricultural sector and attaining the goal of food security for the country.”
Under the act, the penalty for economic sabotage and large-scale agricultural smuggling is a maximum of 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine that is twice the fair value of the smuggled product.