Gordon tells Customs: Stop ‘consignees for hire’
The Bureau of Customs (BOC) could curb smuggling, including of illegal drugs, by getting tougher on consignees and putting a stop to the practice of getting “consignees for hire,” according to Sen. Richard Gordon.
In a statement issued after a hearing called by the Senate blue ribbon committee on Tuesday, Gordon said traffickers were using consignees to smuggle illegal drugs into the Philippines.
The committee was looking into the smuggling of P6.8 billion worth of “shabu” (crystal meth) into the country in magnetic lifters, which the BOC was disputing and which President Duterte had described as “pure speculation.”
Dogs detected shabu
But the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, the lead agency in Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs, is standing by its finding that the magnetic lifters found in a Cavite warehouse had contained shabu, as indicated by the reaction of drug-sniffing dogs.
The drug was already gone when the magnetic lifters were found by the authorities.
The consignee of the magnetic lifters, Marina Signapan of SMYD Trading, claimed that she was just the consignee on record for the cargo.
Signapan said someone she knew called her to say that he had a cargo arriving and it was consigned to SMYD Trading.
She said she got angry because her company’s name was used without her permission.
But she later relented and charged P180,000 for using her company’s name, she said.
The amount covered her P50,000-fee plus duties and taxes, she said.
Register them all
Gordon said the government should not be lenient with consignees.
It should require all consignees to be registered and should see to it that they have legitimate operations, he said.
“Shouldn’t we be checking if consignees have warehouses and are not hole-in-the-wall operations?” he said.
Even trucking companies doing business with the consignees should be made to register with the BOC, he said.
The BOC should also shorten the period it allows before it declares unclaimed cargos abandoned, he added.
Last month, customs agents found 500 kilograms worth of shabu in magnetic lifters that arrived at Manila International Container Port in June and abandoned there.
Gordon said the contraband could have been found earlier if the cargo had been declared abandoned after a few days.
He said shortening the period for declaring cargos abandoned would have the benefit of decongesting the ports and reducing opportunities for corruption.
“Shipments should be able to leave the ports quickly so that people would not think that officials are asking for bribes. If the shipments are not claimed, that means they are checking if they could talk to an official,” Gordon said.
Fast-tracking the release of cargos would also make the country more attractive to investors, he added.
The senator said it was a matter of concern that large amounts of illegal drugs had slipped past customs officials.
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