SBMA chief: Subic Freeport should be commended, not criticized, for intercepting smuggled goods | Inquirer News

SBMA chief: Subic Freeport should be commended, not criticized, for intercepting smuggled goods

/ 04:48 PM January 10, 2023

Bureau of Customs and Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority officials inspect the smuggled agricultural products seized at Subic Port in 2022. (Photo courtesy of BOC)

SAN ANTONIO, Zambales — An official of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority said on Tuesday that SBMA and the Subic Bay Freeport should be commended, not criticized, for intercepting smuggled farm goods.

At a press briefing, Rolen Paulino, SBMA chair and administrator, said the fact that they managed to intercept the illegal entry of smuggled goods only meant that they were protecting the free port.

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“Pagdating sa sinasabi na kailangan ipasara ito [Subic Freeport] dahil marami daw nahuhuli, hindi ba dapat we should be commended, may nahuhuli, ang dami natin nahuhuli,” he told reporters.

(When it comes to what they say is the need to shut down the Subic Freeport because many are being caught, isn’t it that we should be commended, that many are being apprehended, we are intercepting many.)

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He added: “We are just [sending] a signal that if you want to smuggle, do not do it in Subic because definitely, we will catch you.”

Paulino made the remarks after Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means, issued a statement Monday saying they would investigate reports of alleged rampant smuggling at the free port.

Salceda said the “nonchalance” of the SBMA in the face of legitimate concerns about smuggling through the port is “unacceptable,” as it showed the kind of “institutional inertia that breeds corruption and kills local industries.”

“Probes as recently as 2020, 2021, and 2022 showed that Subic is a haven for both technical and actual smuggling,” Salceda said.

Salceda also claimed that there was credible information the port undercharges tariffs per container van by “1/8th of the actual tariff dues, or around P100,000 per container van of imported meat instead of P800,000. ”

But citing Republic Act No. 7227, or the Bases Conversion and Development Act of 1992, Paulino said the Bureau of Customs should be on the boundaries, not inside the port.

In December 2022 alone, SBMA intercepted the illegal entry of four agricultural products, such as onions, carrots, and galunggong.

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In August last year, they intercepted at least 7,000 metric tons of sugar in the port. INQ

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TAGS: Smuggling, Subic Freeport
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