Rufino Biazon asked to sack customs collectors in sugar smuggling ‘hotspots’
BACOLOD CITY, Philippines—A Negros-based sugar leader on Wednesday called for the relief of customs collectors in the country’s major ports that are identified as smuggling “hotspots” to boost the Bureau of Customs anti-corruption drive.
In a letter, Enrique Rojas, president of the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters, urged newly-appointed Bureau of Customs Commissioner Rufino Biazon to replace the customs collectors in smuggling hotspots because they failed to curb smuggling.
Rojas said they believed that former BOC Commissioner Angelito Alvarez meant well but his hands were tied because the customs collectors in these ports were the same persons since the time of the Arroyo administration.
Rojas said the modus operandi has shifted to misdeclaration of goods in container vans with the connivance of corrupt Customs personnel although the NFSP would still watch out for smuggling by the shipload.
He cited the case of the 2,000 container vans that disappeared during transshipment from Manila to Batangas and the purported unabated smuggling through the backdoor in Mindanao.
He assured Biazon that the NFSP, along with the Sugar Alliance of the Philippines, will be solidly behind him in his anti-smuggling drive, particularly against sugar smuggling.
“The (sugar) industry already has a data base of suspected smugglers, including their areas of operations and warehouses, from info gathered by the SASO (Sugar Anti-Smuggling Organization) under retired police General Joel Goltiao,” Rojas said.
Rojas informed Biazon that the NFSP has always been in the forefront of the fight against the physical and technical smuggling of sugar.
He added that they would like to discuss with the BOC how the NFSP and the sugar industry could help eradicate sugar smuggling and, in the process, help the bureau reach its revenue targets.
He further told Biazon that the NFSP exposed the presence of smuggled sugar in supermarkets and warehouses in Cebu in July 2010, which Cebu customs collector Ronnie Silvestre denied.
Rojas reiterated the call of the NFSP for the immediate prosecution of the importers, traders and public officials involved in sugar smuggling.
He also called on Biazon to grant the industry’s SASO access to the inbound foreign manifest from sugar producing countries at the BOC, as promised by Alvarez, to prevent smuggling by misdeclaration.
“The government has lost and continues to lose billions in potential revenue due to sugar smuggling alone,” Rojas said.
Rojas also sent copies of his letter to Biazon to Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and Sugar Regulatory Administrator Ma. Regina Martin.
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