Farm sector says keeping Customs leadership intact a letdown


10:39 PM July 23rd, 2013

July 23rd, 2013 10:39 PM

DAGUPAN CITY, Philippines—Agriculture sector leaders praised President Benigno Aquino III for criticizing the performance of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in his State of the Nation Address, but expressed disappointment when he rejected the resignation of Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon.

Rosendo So, chair of the party-list group Abono, said Biazon’s resignation should have been considered irrevocable because he failed to stop rampant smuggling of agricultural products.

“Biazon has vowed to revamp the BOC, to remove people suspected of being behind smuggling. But after almost two years, he still has to revamp the agency,” So said.

Biazon said he would stay in the agency after Mr. Aquino expressed confidence in his leadership.

“The person who should head the BOC should be fearless, especially if he has the backing of the President,” he said.

So said Biazon was handpicked by the President to head the BOC, “but if he can’t clean the agency of corruption, he is putting the President to shame.”

“His actions reflect on the President. His excuse was that there were congressmen telling him not to rock the boat at the BOC. But who should he heed? The President who appointed him or [these] congressmen?” So said.

He said it is Mr. Aquino’s prerogative not to accept Biazon’s resignation, “but he (Biazon) should be steely in cleaning up the agency.”

In April, agriculture sector leaders asked Biazon to resign “out of delicadeza” due to his supposed failure to implement reforms in the agency and stop smuggling of agriculture, oil and petroleum products.

So said as much as 600,000 metric tons of rice, worth P10 billion, were smuggled into the country in 2012.

He said some P8 billion worth of smuggled chicken and pork entered the country last year while smuggled fish and aquatic products reached P3.8 billion; sugar, P4.8 billion; and onion and other vegetables, P3.5 billion.

In April this year, port authorities in Cebu uncovered more than 1,000 container vans of misdeclared rice shipments worth P1.2 billion from Vietnam.

“The smuggling of pork, chicken and rice has somewhat abated, but it has not stopped…  The smugglers may only be laying low because their companies are still there,” So said.

He said onion farmers are now complaining because of smuggled onions entering the country. Yolanda Sotelo, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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