P69M worth of goods sneaked past Customs

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BOC reveals 105 containers were spirited out without authorization.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 23) — Around P69 million worth of goods were sneaked out of the Port of Manila despite a standing order preventing the release of the items, according to the Bureau of Customs (BOC). 

In a media briefing Thursday, Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña said 105 containers of ceramic tiles and diapers from China and other imported goods were illegally withdrawn from the premises of port operator Asian Terminal Inc. (ATI). 

Lapeña said the containers were suspected to carry misdeclared, misclassified or undervalued goods. These can only be released with a clearance to lift the alert order. 

But based on their investigation, 34 containers were released between March 13  and March 17, just two days away from the completion of the inspection.  

As of posting, 85 containers have been found and recovered by Customs agents in warehouses in Meycauayan, Bulacan. 

ATI in hot water 

BOC is readying charges against ATI personnel behind the illegal release. Their names are yet to be divulged. Lapeña is also looking at the possibility of collusion among importers and some Customs employers. 

"The motive is monetary game, short-changing the government. If they think they can get away with this, they are wrong," Lapeña said. 

In a statement sent to CNN Philippines, ATI said it "can only process containers for release from the port after the Bureau of Customs issues the release instruction through the OLRS (Online Release System)." 

It added: "Issuance of the OLRS instruction means that all duties and taxes have been paid and that there are no holds or special stops on the container. ATI does not have any control over BOC's e2m alert system." 

Accreditation revoked 

BOC consequently revoked the accreditation of the following importers, identified as owners of the shipments:  

  • Abundancegain Indent Training Corp.
  • Abundanceprime Chemical Trading Corp.  
  • Cymar International Inc. 
  • Herco Trading Inc. 
  • Imperial Foods and Agricultural Products 
  • Megaabundancesteel Indent Trading Corp. 
  • Paragon Platinum International 
  • Premiere Oak Lumber and Wood Products 
  • Spectrum Highlands Mktg. Corp. 
  • Yanyan International Phils. Inc. 

Three custom brokers, meanwhile, have been suspended: 

  • Bernadine Miranda 
  • Mohamad Salman 
  • Himaidi Sarip Ibrahim 

The controversy comes on the heels of the smuggled P6.4-billion shabu from China in 2017, which led to the resignation of Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon. 

Lapeña said he is not discounting the possibility that the shipment could contain drugs.