Smuggling woes

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By Godofredo M. Roperos

Politics also

Thursday, February 6, 2014


ONE of the most glaring news stories about the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in recent days has been about the bureau allowing the illegal entry of imported products. While concerned government officials were aware of the activity, they were no match to the slyness of the “operators,” who were able to let in varied commodities--but mostly rice--under the very noses of the bureau’s personnel.

This resulted in the resignation of its head.

I have written in this space about rice being smuggled into the province. There were truckloads of them, some of which somehow disappeared on the way to the warehouse.

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I cannot recall now what happened to those who were involved, but I think the case “lost steam” across the days. But a recently resigned BOC commissioner was man enough to admit that “rice smuggling (was) rife during my watch.”

The resigned BOC commissioner said he does not dispute the assertion of Deputy Commissioner Agaton Teodoro Uvero that smuggling was rampant during “his term, particularly in 2013.”

It is open to all that former BOC commissioner Ruffy Biazon tendered his resignation at a time when media reported the smuggling onslaught even if he was not directly involved in it. Biazon even pointed out that Uvero’s basis was merely “anecdotal evidence.”

In a text message to the (Philippine Daily) Inquirer a few days ago, Biazon pointed out that “as a matter of record during my time (there were) regularly intercepted smuggled rice and we proceeded to file charges against those involved...Our seizure of smuggled rice by the shipload and even thousands of containers in one count is undeniable material evidence of our efforts against rice smuggling.”

Sad to say his efforts were not enough to contend it.

This is one of the clear picture of how our country has become a victim of concerted “unabated smuggling” operations here not only of rice but also vegetables and pork.

It is obvious that the government’s failure to seize the initiative against the illegal entry of varied farm products to evade paying legitimate taxes and fees amounts to an unfair competition to farm producers. In the same breath, government also suffered losses in taxes from meat, vegetables, etc.

The agriculture sector, in its complaint, pointed out that the revenue due to smuggling totals an estimated P64 billion in the past two years--2012 and 2013.

This estimate was given by an umbrella group called Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag). The group has urged the government to address similar losses in revenue from “rice, livestock and poultry, as well as from the fisheries subsector.”

Indeed, if we let the smuggling activity in our country go unabated, it is not just the legitimate business that will suffer but also the low-income group and our masses in general.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 06, 2014.

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