A Negros-based sugar leader yesterday called on newly-appointed Bureau of Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon to relieve customs collectors in major ports of the country identified as smuggling hotspots to boost the BOC’s anti-corruption drive.
Enrique Rojas, president of the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters, said, “While we should still watch out for smuggling by the shiploads, the modus operandi now has shifted to misdeclaration of goods in container vans with the connivance of corrupt Customs personnel.”
Rojas also cited the case of 2,000 container vans that vanished during transshipment from Manila to Batangas, and the unabated smuggling through the backdoor in Mindanao.
He congratulated Biazon on his appointment as BOC chief and assured him that the NFSP, along with the Sugar Alliance of the Philippines, will be solidly behind him in his anti-smuggling drive, particularly against sugar.
“The (sugar) industry already has a data base of suspected smugglers, including their areas of operations and warehouses, from info gathered by the SASO (Sugar Anti-Smuggling Organization) under retired police General Joel Goltiao,” Rojas said.
In line with President Aquino’s thrust for public-private partnership programs, Rojas told Biazon said they welcome the opportunity of discussing with him how NFSP and the sugar industry can collaborate with the Bureau to eradicate sugar smuggling and, in the process, help the BOC reach its revenue targets.
Rojas informed Biazon that the NFSP has always been in the forefront of the fight against the physical and technical smuggling of sugar.
NFSP exposed the presence of smuggled sugar in supermarkets and warehouses in Cebu in July 2010, which Cebu Customs Collector Ronnie Silvestre denied, Rojas told Biazon.
In January 2011, NFSP also made public the importation by Coca-Cola Philippines and Kraft Foods of more than one million bags of ‘premix’ sugar into the country in 2010 alone, Roxas said, adding that a case on the matter is pending before the BOC’s Valuation and Classification Review Committee.
Rojas reiterated the call of the NFSP for the immediate prosecution of those importers, traders and public officials who are involved in sugar smuggling.
He also called on Biazon to grant to the industry's SASO access to the Inbound Foreign Manifest from sugar producing countries at the BOC to prevent smuggling by misdeclaration, as promised by his predecessor.
Rojas said they believe that former Commissioner Angelito Alvarez, meant well but his hands were tied because the Customs Collectors in ports identified as smuggling hotspots are the same persons since the time of the Arroyo administration.
“The government has lost and continues to lose billions in potential revenue due to sugar smuggling alone. These billions of pesos could have been used to provide basic services, such as 4Ps coverage, food assistance and health services to our people,” Rojas said.
Rojas also sent copies of his letter to Biazon to Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, and Sugar Regulatory Administrator Ma. Regina Martin.*CPG