Customs agents assigned at the Manila International Container Port (MICP) have seized more than P171 million worth of smuggled agricultural products, including fresh red and white onions from China.
The Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS) said it conducted a series of examinations from Dec. 6 to 22, which resulted in the seizure of some 20 container vans consigned to one company.
The containers, which arrived at the Manila North Harbor from Nov. 12 to Dec. 3, were all consigned to Taculog J International Consumer Goods Trading based in Alabang, Muntinlupa City.
The containers were improperly declared to contain mantou (steamed buns), frozen food products and noodles.
Customs Commissioner Yogi Filemon Ruiz said his men monitored the activities of Taculog J International Consumer Goods Trading following a report on the real contents of the containers.
“We are not only practicing our mandate to investigate, examine, and seize such contraband. This is for the good of the country and our people. We have been suffering from the high cost of onions in the markets, so we are especially on the lookout for these kinds of operations because it hurts not only the economy, but it directly impacts our farmers, the people, and the agricultural sector itself,” he said.
Containers that arrived on Nov. 12 and examined from Dec. 14 to 21 were found to contain frozen squid flowers and fresh white onions worth P38 million.
Meanwhile, the shipments that arrived on Nov. 18 and examined from Dec. 6 to 20 were found to contain fresh red and white onions worth P79.02 million.
On Nov. 20, another batch of containers arrived at the MICP. Upon examination from Dec. 19 to 21, authorities found undeclared fresh red and white onions with an estimated total value of P35.079 million.
Containers that arrived on Nov. 25, 2022 and examined on Dec. 22 were found to have undeclared frozen boneless buffalo meat after declaring only frozen lobster, frozen prawn balls, and frozen crab stick. The estimated total amount of the goods found was P14.72 million.
Another container arrived on Dec. 3 and was examined on Dec. 22, 2022. This was found to have undeclared fresh carrots amounting to an estimated total value of P4.5 million being declared only as udon noodles.
The Customs chief commended the CIIS-MICP team and the cooperation from the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Plant Industry.
Deputy Commissioner Juvymax Uy said the bureau was well-positioned to do more.
“We are on track to meet our goals in bringing these perpetrators to justice, as well as answering the call of our President to better protect the borders and put a stop to agricultural smuggling. We have been at the forefront of this battle for years, but even more so in the past months when we intensified our campaign against these kinds of operations,” he said.
Earlier, the BOC said it seized tons of smuggled agricultural products from China worth more than P81 million that arrived in the Port of Subic.
Seized were 44 container vans onions, carrots and frozen seafood consigned to Asterzenmed Inc.
The confiscated shipment also yielded frozen items like shabu-shabu balls, whole mackerel, boneless buffalo meat, and boneless beef.
Ruiz issued an alert order against the shipments belonging to Asterzenmed Inc. and Victory JM Enterprise OPC after receiving reports that agricultural products would be smuggled into the country.
Meanwhile, four container vans declared as bread consigned to Victory JM contained mostly fresh red onions and some mantou, and soft French bread were also seized.
The consignees may be charged for possible violations of the Department of Agriculture Administrative Order No. 18 series of 2000 and Department of Agriculture Department Circular No. 4 series of 2016.
Also on Friday, Senator Christopher Go called on the government to further safeguard the welfare and interests of small farmers and agricultural workers.
He also appealed to the government to address the reported agricultural smuggling, and to file charges against all those involved.
“Put them in jail because the most affected here are our small farmers,” he said.