The Bureau of Customs on Monday announced the seizure of at least 18 container vans loaded with smuggled red and yellow onions from China worth P77 million.
Commissioner Bienvenido Rubio and other Customs officials inspected the containers over the weekend upon the request of Manila International Container Port – Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (MICP-CIIS) chief Alvin Enciso after his office received derogatory information about the shipments from its country of origin.
Based on bills of lading and other documents, the importer described the shipments as “pizza dough and fishballs.”
On Monday, MICP District Collector Arnoldo Famor issued Warrants of Seizure and Detention (WSD) against the shipments.
Rubio said his agency remain committed to the directive of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to protect the country’s borders against any form of illegal importation of goods, especially agricultural products.
Late last month, MICP-CIIS men also intercepted shipments of smuggled onions, sugar, and cigarettes worth more than P104 million in Manila North Harbor.
Based on derogatory information coming from China, the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS-MICP) field office led by chief Alvin Enciso sought the physical examination of the subject shipments.
An inspection of the shipments confirmed that the same contained misdeclared red and yellow onions, in violation of the Department of Agriculture Department Circular No. 04 Series of 2016.
Onions have become so expensive that they are being smuggled into the country.
In January, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. approved the importation of 2 1,060 metric tons of onions to address the supply shortfall and prevent further increase in prices.
Also on Monday, the Department of Agriculture said it has confiscated about P40 million worth of misdeclared agricultural products at Subic Port.
In a statement, the DA said the smuggled products were consigned to a certain Abucayan Business and Trade.
“The team found misdeclared agricultural products that were purported to consist of squid rings but instead contained dressed chicken, duck head, and duck neck, worth about P40 million,” the DA said, pertaining to the operation conducted on March 2.
In the House, Deputy Speaker and Batangas Rep. Ralph Recto said he believed government officials can find funds for building more cold storage facilities in the same manner they were able to raise capital for the Maharlika Fund.
“If they boast they can raise hundreds of billions for a sovereign fund, then I am sure they can do that for cold storage facilities that cost P40 million apiece,” Recto said.
The Batangas lawmaker was referring to the cost of one 20,000-bag cold storage facility that the Department of Agriculture will be putting up in in six onion producing areas this year.
He cited the need for the government to equally prioritize the raising of funds for onion cold storage sites.
“If the idea of a sovereign fund gets an official warm embrace, then why should cold storage get a cold reception?” Recto said.
A cold change system could provide longer shelf life for products such as onions.
For cold storage facilities to help farmers, more should be built in “frontline areas” away from Metro Manila and other big cities, which, by one estimate, house 80 percent of national cold storage capacity.