Casiño joins farmers’ group in call for customs change

Agriculture sector leaders welcome P-Noy commitment to stop smuggling, enforce bureau reforms

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DAGUPAN CITY—Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño joined the call by agriculture sector leaders for the resignation of Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon, saying the customs chief has run out of reasons to stay in his office.

“He has been there for two years and has not implemented any reforms in the system,” Casiño told reporters here.

“He even admitted that there are people in the Bureau of Customs who are supported by politicians so he could not touch them… But when I asked some congressmen, they told me that as commissioner, he should be firm about doing his job,” he said.

Agriculture sector leaders earlier sought the resignation of Biazon, whom they blamed for the unabated smuggling of food commodities.

On Thursday, Rosendo So, chair of the Abono party-list group, said the leaders of his group are happy that President Aquino had taken cognizance of the smuggling issue.

Mr. Aquino was quoted in reports that Malacañang would impose a new plan to curb smuggling through a team led by Biazon. It would include measures aimed at weeding out corrupt customs personnel and strategies to win cases against smugglers in court.

So said: “We are glad that the President finally reacted and that he is doing something about the problem. On the part of the agricultural sector, that is good news. Finally, he has broken his silence, which is good as it means now, there will be direction toward solving the problem. Malacañang used to be silent on smuggling.”

So said about P32 billion worth of agricultural products and, quoting businessman Ramon Ang, more than P30 billion worth of petroleum products have been smuggled into the country.

He said smuggled rice, which is shipped in through the Mindanao and Visayas ports, has been stopped from reaching northern Luzon provinces.

“They are sold in Metro Manila, including supermarkets, where they are sold at P1,300 a sack. These are good quality rice and if they are taxed right, they would cost at least P1,500,” he said.

Biazon in a previous statement said he is under fire because of a demolition job that is meant to remove him to be replaced by someone being endorsed by a political clan in Pangasinan.

He identified a certain Mr. G as being behind the demolition job.

The group of So, however, said while they are asking for Biazon’s resignation, his group is not endorsing anyone for the position.

In his group’s statement, So said: “We have written the President on various smuggling problems in the country since January.”

“At least now, the Palace has already made a concrete commitment to really address the problem,” he added. Yolanda Sotelo, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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