Stop rice smuggling; protect our farmers

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Sunday, December 29, 2013

I CAN’T understand why rice smuggling can’t be stopped if our government, especially the Bureau of Customs (BOC), will conduct a no-nonsense campaign against it. Since I am the one asking the question, I’ll be the one answering it. It is because of the prevalent graft and corruption in our government bureaucracy. Are people in customs in connivance with those involved in rampant rice smuggling in the country that is why it cannot be eliminated?

These smugglers cannot operate on their own without being in cahoots with corrupt personnel at the bureau, or any other government agency for that matter, which has control over rice importation. Most of these smugglers got clearance and authority of importation from the National Food Authority (NFA) to make it appear that their importations are legal but some of these documents have been recycled.

In fairness to the BOC, sometimes they confiscate smuggled rice. But when the rice is in their custody, some are pilfered, or worst, gone with the wind including the vessel.

This happened in our own backyard. A few months ago, pilferage of confiscated smuggled rice happened at a port area warehouse. The anti-graft office investigated the case, but until now no result has been made public and those involved are still out there looking for another prey.

In the national scene, names of big-time smugglers have cropped up and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) are looking into the matter. But I doubt if they can file charges and pin down those involved. They have been investigating this long before but they stopped since they couldn’t find concrete evidence against those involved. And now they are investigating again.

Massive rice importation, including smuggling, can help alleviate the plight of the poor because under the so-called “law of supply and demand,” this staple will become affordable. With more products in the market, prices will definitely go down. But we have the agricultural sector to protect.

What will happen to our farmers if they can no longer sell their own products? They will become irrelevant.

I am a son of a farmer. I grew up in the rice field, assisting my father till our land until I went to college in Zamboanga City and later landed a job here in Cebu. I know the life of a farmer. They rely on their harvest. And mind you, it will take at least three months before they can recover their investment.

When my father was still alive, we used to have good harvests. When he died, my mother assumed the responsibility of financing the tilling of our lands with my help. But I found out we were losing money with every harvest. Meaning, we were not able to recover our investment. But I kept at it because of my Nanay. But when she died five years ago, I stopped financing the harvest and let our closed relatives manage it.

Now, it is still there and I don’t know if they are making good harvest or money out of it. The lots adjacent to our land have been converted into a housing area.

I am just sharing my experience because I want the public to know the condition of our farmers, whom we rely on for our daily meals. If they stop producing rice, it will have a big impact on our economy because the Filipinos cannot live on bread alone. We need rice. Ako dili kompleto akong kaon og walay kan-on.


Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 30, 2013.


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