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Salceda wants agri hoarding, profiteering, and cartel as economic sabotage; House tax chair wants Task Force on Hoarding constituted to raid warehouses

August 14th, 2022

House Ways and Means Chair Joey Sarte Salceda (Albay, 2nd district) has announced that he will be filing a bill during session tomorrow that would penalize large-scale hoarding, profiteering, and cartel of agricultural products as economic sabotage, thus subject to life imprisonment and steep fines.

“It’s time to put greater teeth on the provisions of the Price Act as far as they apply to agricultural products. There is no economic crime more contemptible than knowingly depriving the people of food. That is the lowest depth of social evil,” Salceda said.

Under Salceda’s proposal, the hoarding, cartelling, or profiteering off of “sugar, corn, pork, poultry, garlic, onion, carrots, fish, and cruciferous vegetables, in its raw state, or which have undergone the simple processes of preparation or preservation for the market, with a minimum amount of one million pesos (P1,000,000.00), or rice, with a minimum amount of ten million pesos (P10,000,000.00)” shall be considered economic sabotage.

The proposal amends Republic Act No. 10845, or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016, by adding offenses defined under Section 5 of the Price Act, insofar as they meet the set values.

“I want to give the government the legal basis to raid hoarders and cartels, and to punish them with the full brunt of the law. I especially think there is something bitter going on in the sugar sector.”

Salceda cited higher than usual withdrawals of imported sugar, lower than usual transfers of milled raw sugar to refiners, as possible “smoking guns” of abuse in the sugar market.

“Mills have been transferring just 14,000MT of raw sugar to refineries from September 2021 to present, compared to 86,000 MT over the same period a year ago.”

“Another figure doesn’t make ready sense to me. While demand for raw sugar was down, demand for refined sugar was actually up, suspiciously due to faster withdrawals of stocks of imports (134,000 MT from just 83,000 MT of import stocks over the same period, demand from sugar classified for domestic use being flat at around 840,000 MT)”

“So, I suspect abuse in the sugar market. The planters are saying harvest didn’t decline as much as the market suggests it did. Production declined by just 16%, but prices are up as much as 90% year on year. If something looks, smells, and feels nefarious, it probably is.”

Constitute task force to raid agri warehouses

Salceda also said that the President can constitute a Task Force on Agricultural Hoarding, similar to what President Duterte did with rice in 2018.

“PRRD constituted a task force on rice hoarding, with the National Bureau of Investigation taking the helm, tasked with raiding warehouses for hoarded rice. The same can be done now for sugar and other commodities.”

“Hoarders tend to be smugglers, because crime tends to be incestuous. That is certainly the case for onions, 28% of which we import, among the largest in agri commodities. You catch them for hoarding, and the stench of smuggling will also come out,” Salceda said.

“Until we are able to make more long-term and structural changes to our laws and systems, a short-term policy of deterrence should be the policy of PBBM’s administration.”

“Among their [hoarders and profiteers] connections in government, heads must roll. That’s step one. Definitely, those who knowingly attempted to push an illegal sugar order must go.”

“I also hope the President also begins wielding the anger of the people through the instruments of law, against these hoarders, smugglers, and profiteers. May mga sampolan agad tayo, as deterrence, and as credible flashing of the teeth of the law.”

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