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Smuggled garlic to be destroyed

MANILA, Philippines–Instead of auctioning off P30-million worth of smuggled Taiwan garlic to raise additional revenue for the government, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) will destroy the shipment it seized early this month at a port in Batangas province.

This was disclosed Sunday by Charo Logarta-Lagamon, the bureau’s public information chief, who cited a 2007 memorandum of agreement between the Department of Finance (DOF) and the Department of Agriculture (DA) on the handling of illegally imported agricultural products.

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“We need to comply with the regulation,” Lagamon said. The BOC is a DOF-attached agency.

The seizure came as retail prices for the commodity soared to as high as P300 to P400 a kilo, from the usual P60 to P90. In the first quarter alone, the DA monitored that garlic prices increased by 213 percent.

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After undergoing forfeiture proceedings, the garlic shipment will be destroyed, Lagamon said.

When he was still customs commissioner, Ruffy Biazon had said that the agency would just let smuggled garlic and other agricultural products rot. “Although they can be auctioned off to raise additional government revenue, seized agricultural products needed clearance from the Department of Agriculture to be disposed that way,” he had said.

Contacted by phone over the weekend, Biazon noted that “understandably, local farmers would rather not have those items enter the market for their protection.”

“So the policy I set was for the destruction of illegally imported agricultural products,” he added.

The garlic shipment arrived in four 40-foot containers on June 1 and 11 from Hong Kong on board the container ships, the MCC Sandiwa and the MV Rubina Schule, respectively.

According to the BOC, the contents were declared cocoa beans, supposedly to be used for chocolate products. The cargoes had no clearance from the agriculture department.

The shipment was consigned to a certain Good Earth Merchandising, which is based in Barangay (village) Carmen, Cagayan de Oro City, It was brokered by one Antonio Enriquez, whose stated address was Barangay Tuktukan in Guiguinto, Bulacan province.

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Tuktukan’s village chair has certified that the broker was nonexistent.

Under the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines, misdeclaration of imported goods is tantamount to outright smuggling and the smuggled items are subject to immediate seizure by the Bureau of Customs.

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TAGS: agri products, Consumer issues, Garlic, Philippines, smuggled garlic, Smuggling
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