Month: July 2017

Haze from the forest fires in Indonesia have reached Davao Region.

This was the confirmation made by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) Davao Region in a radio interview Monday morning.

Ben Rosales, weather observer of Pagasa Davao, said that the haze affecting Davao was brought by the monsoon winds blowing northeast from fires in Indonesia towards the direction of the Philippines.

Since October 3, Cebu has been experiencing haze. Davao has started experiencing haze since last week.

At least eight of the ten countries in the ASEAN region have been affected by the haze, including southern Thailand and Vietnam, and most parts of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. The haze affecting Cambodia and Philippines is also suspected to have arisen from Indonesian rather than local sources.

Indonesia has struggled for years to contain forest fires, especially in the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan.

The fires are caused by firms and farmers who engage in illegal slash-and-burn practices as a relatively inexpensive means of clearing land. Sumatra and Kalimantan possess large area of peatland, which is highly combustible during dry season. The haze has been particularly severe this year due to the El Niño phenomenon which has caused drier conditions, allowing the fires to spread more.

Nationalist Peoples Coalition (NPC) Congressman Win Gatchalian today scored the Aquino administration’s failure to check the rampant smuggling of agricultural products, which has reportedly ballooned to P182 billion from 2010 to 2014.

According to the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag), composed of at least 33 organizations of farmers, agribusiness operators and party-list groups, the amount of smuggled agricultural commodities during the first four years of President Aquino almost double the contraband valued at P95 billion from 2005 to 2009.

Sinag chair Rosendo So explained that the government lost some P60 billion to P80 billion on the importation of rice, pork, sugar, chicken, onion, carrots and garlic—considering that tariffs on these items were set at 30 percent to 40 percent.

Gatchalian said the data on agricultural products smuggling is alarming since the Bureau of Customs, which serves as the frontline agency against smuggling, is practically doing nothing to help curb the illegal entry of imported agri products.

“It is ironic that despite the so-called ‘Daang Matuwid’ of the Aquino administration, it has miserably failed in the anti-smuggling front and this puts hundreds of our farmers in a disadvantage,” said Gatchalian.

Gatchalian noted that the BoC still uses manual processing, which explains the lack of systematized data collection.

“The ultimate solution to the unabated smuggling in various ports is for the Customs to completely automate all its operation. This requires all port entry transactions to be posted in the website of the BoC to promote transparency,” said Gatchalian.

Gatchalian pointed out that in the interest of transparency, all importation data should be posted online, including information on goods that are being imported, how much duties and taxes are paid, as well as the names of importers or their consignees.

The “full computerization” of the BOC was initiated by former Commissioner Ruffy Biazon, building on an earlier project that started in 2009 with the aim of eliminating paperwork and fixers, for a faster corruption-free process.

“With computerization, there will be no contact between the importer and customs employees. No paper work. Everything will be by computer. Aside from curbing corruption, transactions in the BOC will be quick. Fixers will be put out of business. And collections will increase,” former Commissioner Biazon had said.

Gatchalian is now asking the BoC whatever happened to the planned computerization that was supposed to integrate all customs processes in a single environment replacing the current multisystem setup, and paving for much faster and efficient customs transactions.

“If the Aquino administration is sincere in its campaign againsy smuggling, it should order the BoC to immediately implement the full computerization of the bureau as envisioned by former Commissioner Biazon,” Gatchalian concluded.