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Customs on alert for agricultural smuggling
The Customs Office has been on heightened alert against imported agricultural products following the seizure of contraband vegetables worth 4.7 million pesos in a raid on two warehouses in Manila. “This is still in line with our mandate to protect the country’s borders from the illegal importation of goods. We are keeping our promise to strengthen border control and we are stepping up our efforts to ensure the security of these products, ”said Deputy Intelligence Group Deputy Commissioner Raniel Ramiro. The office said vegetables, meat and other dangerous and contraband goods destined for the holiday season are expected to arrive during the “Ber months.” The customs intelligence and investigation service assigned to North Harbor raided two warehouses on Carmen Planas and Bilbao streets on Wednesday after confirming that three market stalls were getting their vegetables imported from these establishments. They found red onions, carrots, ginger, garlic, broccoli, red and yellow onions imported into warehouses. Lawmakers in the House of Representatives and Senate had previously called for a congressional investigation into contraband vegetables flooding local markets that some believe could expose consumers and farmers to uncontrolled plant diseases. In House Resolution 2263, the Lower House Makabayan Bloc urged the House Agriculture and Food Committee to look into the matter, citing reports of the presence of small warehouses near Divisoria where imported vegetables were supposed to be stored and released to markets when Benguet prices for vegetables increased. “Vegetable crushers at the La Trinidad trading post in Benguet said orders had dropped dramatically due to the proliferation of smuggled carrots in Metro Manila, Cebu and Cagayan de Oro, among other cities,” said the resolution. “Of the previous 100 bags of carrots per day, the vegetable grinders said they could only get rid of at least 30 bags of carrots per day,” he added. In the Upper House, Senator Francis Pangilinan himself called for a Senate inquiry, saying “contraband agricultural products can contain invasive pests and harbor various diseases. The exposure of other food products to these products poses a serious threat to the health of our population, the productivity of the agricultural sector and the food security of our country, ”he said. Agriculture Secretary William Dar has warned the public against buying contraband vegetables over possible pesticide residues, even though his agency has ordered the confiscation of all shipments that have entered the country without the necessary permits.