BOC: Nothing irregular in release of shipment within 3 days
The Bureau of Customs (BOC) maintained that there was nothing irregular about the release within three days of the shipment of four magnetic lifters believed to have contained a ton of shabu (crystal meth).
Customs spokesperson Erastus Dino Austria said it has been part of the agency’s reform agenda to ensure better trade facilitation at the ports due to complaints in the past about the slow processing and releasing of shipments.
He noted that the faster release of shipments now allows them to stamp out corruption as the longer a consignment stays at the ports, the more their stakeholders become “prone to corruption.”
On July 14, SMYD Trading’s shipment of four magnetic lifters left the Manila International Container Port (MICP) just three days after it arrived from Taiwan. Since it was red-tagged, it only underwent a nonintrusive X-ray examination, which was the protocol for such type of shipments.
Austria said the shipment was cleared for release since the X-ray images matched the declaration papers and its taxes and duties of close to P158,000 had been paid.
The BOC has repeatedly stressed the absence of any intelligence information on the shipment, which made it “impossible” for them to truly determine its contents.
In fact, even the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency’s (PDEA) drug-sniffing dogs were unable to detect the illegal drugs stored on two magnetic lifters seized by the BOC three days prior.
When asked if the weight of the magnetic lifters did not alert customs personnel, especially as the PDEA claimed that the drugs supposedly smuggled in weighed around a ton, Austria maintained that they were still “within industry standards.”
To date, it remains unclear why PDEA opted not to share with the BOC its intelligence report on the shipment even though Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña was the agency’s former chief.
“[Exchange] can be done head to head to protect the integrity of the information and prevent any leak,” Austria said.
Lapeña earlier lamented that it was only after he “pressed” for information on Aug. 4 that he was briefed of the attempt to smuggle in drugs through the MICP. The briefing Lapeña received was for the two magnetic lifters, consigned to Vecaba Trading International, that they seized on Tuesday last week.
The BOC had to bear the brunt for the apparently successful effort to smuggle illegal drugs into the country. Without naming names, Lapeña told BOC officials and employees on Monday that it has become “very easy and convenient” for some individuals “to point fingers at the BOC because of our past image.”
“In my almost one year as customs commissioner, [we have] worked so hard to reform the bureau and to change our image into a positive one. I cannot allow our one year of sleepless nights, our efforts during weekends and the wee hours to just be destroyed because of a mere assumption,” he said.
According to Austria, this incident could’ve been prevented if only the BOC weren’t left out and received “timely” information, even if it is raw, to help ensure the illegal drugs did not slip through the country’s ports.
He noted that if PDEA failed to validate its raw information on the shipment, then it suffered from a “failure of intelligence” which resulted in the release of the drug shipment. /ee
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