Even as the government tries to escalate its campaign against smuggling of all forms, authorities on Saturday declared seizing sizable shipments of sugar and shabu worth hundreds of millions of pesos through seaports and postal services.
The country’s main airport also proved porous in letting goods in, as authorities intercepted some crew members of Philippine Airlines who arrived in Manila carrying more than 20 kilos of onions—currently going for as much as P600 a kilo locally—after their flights from Dubai and Riyadh.
The Bureau of Customs said it apprehended in Batangas seaport a vessel carrying 80,000 bags, or 4,000 metric tons (MT), of smuggled refined sugar worth P240 million from Thailand.
Authorities assigned at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) also seized another smuggled shipment of shabu or methamphetamine hydrochloride worth more than P1.3 million in a controlled delivery operation in Cavite.
This was after government agents on Wednesday intercepted a shipment declared as “snacks” from Nigeria containing shabu with an estimated street value of P89.590 million.
The meth shipment, stored in self-sealing foil pouches used for snack food, prompted Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers on Saturday to advise drug enforcement authorities and the public to be wary of all parcels coming from abroad.
The sugar shipment, Customs Commissioner Yogi Filemon Ruiz said, was initially declared to contain insulators, surge arresters, slipper outsoles, and Styrene Butadiene rubber from Hong Kong, consigned to Burias Jang Consumer Goods Trading.
Upon physical examination, the BOC examiners found refined sugar, which lacked importation permits from the government, as Cruz lamented the continuous attempts by smugglers to bring undeclared agricultural products into the country.
As for the shabu shipments, lawmen initially intercepted the parcel shipment of 200 grams of meth worth P1.3 million at the DHL warehouse, where it was found misdeclared as “Deep Tissue Massage from South Africa,” a clear case of technical smuggling.
This prompted Customs-NAIA port officials to ask assistance from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and its own Interagency Drug Interdiction Task Group to conduct the controlled delivery operation, resulting in the seizure of the parcel and the arrest of its owner.
Last week, the same government operatives used the same technique in Las Pinas City, where they arrested a woman who claimed the smuggled shipment of shabu worth P89 million from Nigeria.
Suspect Jolle Anne Cuer, 25, was collared after she received the package of 44 self-sealing snack pouches containing 13,175 grams of shabu. The parcel was declared as “Grandma’s Chinchin” snack packs and shipped to Cuer by a certain Micheal Olanrewaju from Nigeria.
Barbers said the shipment of illegal drugs through parcels is not new, as drug syndicates continually innovate their methods on where to hide or conceal their goods.
As for the onions, lawyer Ma. Lourdes Mangaoang, Customs Deputy Collector for Passenger Service at the NAIA, said the precious bulbs together with 10.5 kilos of lemons and a kilo of strawberries were found being carried by crew members of PAL flights PR-655 and PR-659, which arrived at Terminal 1 on Jan. 10, without the necessary clearance or permits.
Mangaoang said the flight personnel lacked the Phytosanitary Certificate and Plant Quarantine Clearance in bringing the agricultural products into the country, which she added was a clear violation of Presidential Decree 1433 (Plant Quarantine Law of 1978).
She said the crew also violated Section 1404 of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) for their “failure to declare (the) baggage.”
In a statement, PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said Philippine Airlines does not condone any violation of Customs regulations.
“We are investigating the incident involving ten crew members who were found to be carrying undeclared vegetables and fruits in their baggage after flying in from Riyadh and Dubai. We will impose the appropriate disciplinary sanctions subject to the results of the investigations,” she said.