Binay vows to fight smuggling of bawang

United Opposition (UNO) vice presidential bet and Makati Mayor Jojo Binay yesterday vowed to put a stop to the unabated smuggling of garlic that is hurting the farmers of Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte, the country’s primary producers of the cash crop.

In a radio interview in Vigan, Binay explained that the rampant smuggling of garlic was also depriving the national coffers of millions of pesos in potential revenue, which can be tapped to finance various local government projects.

“’Yang smuggling, naaapektuhan niyan ang Ilocos Region, lalo na ng smuggling ng bawang,” Binay said, as he promised to help the farmers to protect the P600-million garlic industry.

An estimate by Alyansa Agrikultura shows that as much as P10 billion in tax revenue is lost due to smuggling of vegetables products, including garlic.

Some 926,640 kilos of fresh vegetables were smuggled into the country in 2003 alone, and 716,000 kilos of which were garlic, while total garlic imports reached 18,000 tons during the same period with a value of $3.7 million.

Region 1 is the top producer of garlic in the country. In 2008, over 70 percent of the total volume of garlic produced in the country came from region, with Ilocos Norte providing the largest yield in terms of production.

Farmers have repeatedly appealed to the Arroyo administration to minimize the importation of garlic along with onion which, coupled with smuggling, continued to drive down the prices of these two agricultural crops in the market.

Smuggled garlic is cheaper than the locally-produced garlic because it evades the usual 40-percent tariff imposed by the Bureau of Customs.

“Ang kailangan po ay mag-set ng priorities at political will. May magagawa po tayo para mapigilan ito at magkaroon po ng pondo para sa mga pangangailangan ng ating local government,” Binay said.#