P15-M smuggled fresh veggies seized at Subic port
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — Authorities here on Thursday intercepted about P15 million worth of fresh vegetables that were illegally shipped from China and could flood the local markets.
In a statement, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) said the smuggled fresh vegetables were found inside five 40-footer container vans that were declared to contain frozen assorted vegetables and consigned to Saturnus Corp., an importer based in Metro Manila.
Wilma Eisma, chair and administrator of SBMA, said the shipment was initially flagged on Oct.13 due to noncompliance with the approved sanitary and phytosanitary import clearance (SPS-IC) on temperature requirement and for the entry of “nonimportable” fresh vegetables.
“We found out that the shipment contained chilled fresh vegetables that are considered illegal for importation into the country,” Eisma said.
She said the shipment included various fresh produce such as water bamboo, mushrooms, broccoli, and other vegetables.
Marites Martin, district collector of the Bureau of Customs in Subic, said her office had issued warrants of seizure and detention for the shipment, adding that the consignee was only given a permit to import frozen vegetables.
Martin said the temperature of frozen commodities should be at -18 degrees Celsius, noting that the refrigerated containers in the Saturnus shipment were at -1 degree Celsius.
“Thus, the issued SPS-IC is not applicable to [this kind of] instant importation,” Martin added in a statement on Friday.
Federico Laciste Jr., agriculture assistant secretary, said the owner of the shipment would face charges for violation of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act and agriculture laws.
“The port of Subic will definitely remain fully committed to securing the country’s borders from the entry of prohibited, smuggled goods and all other illicit trades,” Eisma said.
Last month, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the government had been investigating several incidents of smuggling of agricultural products that continued to flood public markets in Metro Manila, Cebu, and other parts of the country.
Farmers in Benguet province said smuggled carrots were already sold in local markets, causing them to suffer income losses.
Dar said smuggling operations in the country could already be large in scale, adding that there were reports that these items arrived every day. —JOANNA ROSE AGLIBOT
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