PH tagged Asia’s smuggling capital
Heat is on Biazon for P62-b loss
The Philippines has become known as “the smuggling capital of Asia” after some P32 billion worth of rice, onions, meat and poultry products and P30 billion worth of petroleum products were smuggled into the country last year alone, agriculture leaders said Sunday.
The representatives of agricultural groups demanded that Customs Commissioner Rufino Biazon resign and blamed President Benigno Aquino III for not curbing rampant smuggling despite repeated warnings even from big businesses.
“In 2012 alone, the total volume of smuggled agricultural products amounted to P32 billion. As much as 600,000 metric tons of rice worth P10 billion was smuggled into the country, smuggled chicken and pork products reached P8 billion, fish and aquatic products at P3.8 billion, sugar at P4.8 billion, and onion and other vegetables at P3.5 billion,” said Abono chairman and Swine Development Council Rosendo So, citing Bureau of Customs records.
So twitted President Aquino for announcing that the country will be self-sufficient in rice this year and in fact, was on its way to exporting black organic rice.
“Yes, the President is correct in saying that the country will be sufficient in rice because the smuggled imported rice is flooding the local markets and selling at a cheap cost, thereby killing our local farmers,” So told the Manila Standard.
“Single-handedly, Biazon is making the country the smuggling capital of Asia. He should resign if he has any shame left,” So said. “We should not let Biazon spend another minute in Customs. He should pack his things and leave immediately.”
So said Biazon should relinquish his post and not wait for the President to ask him to resign.
“You also have oil players complaining of smuggled petroleum products amounting to foregone revenues of up to P30 billion a year,” So said.
Comparing the volume of exports reported by other countries to the Philippines and the import volume recorded in Customs, So said the smuggled grains were erroneously declared and recorded as “slag, wood wall, tiles and ukay-ukay.”
So said the smuggled agricultural products were flooding markets nationwide, even in areas that are considered the country’s rice granary.
“Heads must roll for the failure of Customs to address the problem of rampant smuggling in the Visayas and Mindanao. Smuggled rice has flooded the markets, reaching Nueva Ecija, Baguio, Pangasinan, La Union and even Isabela, the rice granary of the Philippines,” So said.
So appealed to President Aquino to intervene and crack the whip on Customs officials, especially those manning the ports in Visayas and Mindanao, where grains from China and Vietnam were illegally entering the country.
“With smuggled rice flooding the market, it is only incumbent upon the government to act immediately. If the prices of rice continue to plunge, local rice production will certainly collapse,” he added.
So said farmers in Luzon have lost the market in Visayas in Mindanao.
Before the smuggling became rampant, rice was transported from the provinces of Northern Luzon to Manila, and from there was shipped to Cebu, Cagayan de Oro and Davao.
“Now, with the unabated entry of smuggled rice, the contraband is being shipped from Cebu, Davao and Cagayan de Oro to Manila, and from Manila, it is brought to Bulacan and, subsequently transported to other provinces in Northern Luzon,” So said.
So said the local farmers were disappointed in President Aquino’s inaction on their manifesto asking for immediate and concrete steps to curb rice smuggling.
The manifesto was submitted to the President and to Biazon more than a month ago, he said.
“Since then, the illegal entry of grain shipments continues,” So said.
Biazon earlier drew flak after big oil players complained of rampant smuggling of petroleum products in various ports across the country.
Malacañang recently distanced itself from the Customs chief, with presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda saying the calls for him to resign “should be answered by Commissioner Biazon himself.”
Biazon was reported to be in Panama City where he was attending a meeting of the World Customs Organization.
In his April 4 blog on the Internet, Biazon stressed that an overhaul of the agency is needed, but mere replacement of people involved, while necessary and significant, will not be the ultimate solution.”
He said “the problem of smuggling is not one that just cropped up during his tenure as BOC commissioner in the past 18 months, or the Aquino administration from mid-2010 to the present.”
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