"Why are you killing your fellow Filipinos? Gusto nyo mawalan ng hanapbuhay ang kababayan natin sa La Trinidad (Do you want our farmers in La Trinidad to lose their livelihood)?"
Sen. Panfilo "Ping" M. Lacson directed this question Tuesday at the Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) for allowing the "invasion" or importation of Korean strawberries into the country, at the expense of strawberry farmers in La Trinidad.
Lacson also echoed the concerns of the La Trinidad farmers that the entry of strawberries from Korea may also introduce pests and diseases that may affect Philippine agriculture.
"We are killing the local industry. Why import strawberries and carrots when we have strawberries and carrots here? I think your commitment to your fellow Filipinos should be more important than your commitment with importers," he told BPI's Ariel Bayot.
Also, Lacson rejected the reported claim by the BPI that it allows the importation of Korean strawberries because they have a different target market compared to La Trinidad strawberries.
Korean strawberries are reportedly sold at P1,500 per kilo while those from La Trinidad are sold at P200 per kilo. However, strawberries from Korea instead of those from La Trinidad are made available in high-end retail outlets.
Adding insult to injury, Lacson stressed, is that the importation is happening now during the peak season for strawberries. "Para kayo nananadya (It's as if you're doing this on purpose)," he told the BPI.
"Ang worry dito ng mga taga-La Trinidad, hindi lang ang influx ng smuggled agricultural products. Pag napasukan pa ng peste, yan pa isang concern kasi hindi dumadaan sa inspection (The worry of farmers especially in La Trinidad in Benguet is not just the influx of smuggled agricultural products. They are also concerned about agricultural pests that manage to slip past our authorities' inspection)," Lacson added.
Meanwhile, Lacson urged the DA to extend intervention to farmers who face the prospect of fertilizer prices being doubled due to the rising prices of soya despite the downward movement of soya prices in the international market.
"Whatever assistance you can render. Tataas ang meat products na locally produced, tataas din ang presyo ng gulay. Kailangan ng intervention (Whatever assistance you can render, do it because prices of local vegetables and meat products could go up. Intervention is needed)," he said.