Smuggling toll: P60B annually

Posted at 05/01/12 6:50 AM

DAVAO CITY—The country continues to bleed by P60 billion annually due to technical smuggling, and Customs Commissioner Rozzano Rufino Biazon disclosed that smugglers include traders who “use spurious and non-existing consignees” to avoid detection and tracking.

Biazon said on Friday last week smuggling would continue to hound the agency “for as long as the old system would persist.”

An automation project of the bureau, already halfway to completion, he added, would attempt to reduce “human intervention” to the minimum to clip activities of the smugglers “who fake documents like the import permit and make up names of consignees and importers.”

Biazon said the Bureau of Customs (BOC) has cracked most of the methods used by the smugglers, the most common of which is faking the import permit “because this [permit] is manually issued.”

“Others [among the smugglers], to skip import duties and ban on certain items, would use fictitious consignees and fake names of importers so that when this [ruse] is discovered, no one would be charged,” according to the Customs chief.

He said there were cases when contraband items would be seen being sold openly by traders or stocked in their warehouses. “We could not simply arrest them because it is really difficult to establish evidence that would link the products to the traders.”

But this time, Biazon added, documents would be electronically transmitted to allow inspectors to look at the documents and the database of all recently accredited consignees and importers.

He would not say how long the automation project would be able to computerize the entire processing but he said the move would be timed with inclusion of the BOC on the list of government agencies to be lumped in the National Single Window project. The project was targeted to be finished by next year and would link all of the agencies in a computer network.

Biazon added that BOC would also purge the list of accredited consignees and importers, saying he has directed the agency’s intelligence division to remove from the accredited list those who had been charged with engaging in anomalous transactions.

The list of accredited consignees and importers contains 50,000 names but the Customs commissioner said he expected 25 percent of them to be stricken out.

Meanwhile, the Geneva-based SGS SA (formerly Société Générale de Surveillance) has offered again to conduct verification and quality testing of import items landing at all Philippine ports, Biazon said.

SGS was once the third-party verifier and valuator of Philippine imports but this role was scrapped in the course of various free trade talks. Biazon said the valuation made in the country’s ports was seen “anti-free trade” because that job had been assigned to the countries of origin of the imports.

This time, according to him, SGS has offered to do the verification and quality testing “minus the valuation.”

“We are looking into it [offer] but we have not received any proposal yet from them,” Biazon said.
In Photo: Customs Commissioner Rozzano Rufino Biazon says smuggling would continue to hound the agency “for as long as the old system would persist.” (Roy Domingo)