THERE’S no need and there’s no compelling urgency to amend Republic Act 10845 or the Anti-Smuggling of Agricultural Products Law to include the smuggling of tobacco “both in its raw form or as finished products” as proposed by Senate Bill 1812.
RA 10845’s purpose is specific and clearly described in the law itself.
The core and essential agri products enumerated in RA 10845 are 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.
It’s a misplaced public policy to include tobacco especially cigarettes and similar products as belonging to core and essential agricultural products affecting food security.
After all, we don’t eat tobacco in any of its forms, it’s neither a food item nor an essential household item.
The food products enumerated in RA 10845 are necessary for the health and survival of Filipinos while tobacco and cigarettes are not.
Consumption of tobacco, cigarettes and similar products is considered a vice and is subject to an additional “sin” tax together with alcohol.
Core and essential food items are subject to the interplay of supply, demand and price stability concerns but not tobacco, cigarettes and similar products.
The latter’s prices are dictated more by government regulatory and tax impositions and not necessarily by supply and demand.
In short, tobacco, cigarettes, and similar products belong to a completely different set of “agricultural” products that do not, and should not, fall into the ambit of smuggling protection and economic sabotage enforcement under RA 10845.
The government is already neck-deep in its fight against smuggling of core and essential agri products enumerated in RA 10845.
Including tobacco and cigarettes would only further strain government resources and draw important resources away from the fight against smuggling.
The thrust of the government, through the concerned agencies like the Department of Finance and Department of Justice, should be to go after smugglers of core and essential food products and test the economic sabotage provisions of RA 10845.
“Sampolan dapat” in the vernacular.
This’ll send a strong message that the government is serious about smuggling.
It assures a wary public tired of price increases and supply disruptions that the government aims to urgently combat corruption and that essential food items are always available and affordable.
Even assuming there’s smuggling of tobacco, cigarettes and similar products and the government needs to address lost revenue caused by such smuggling, genuine enforcement of existing laws is the solution and not amendment.