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House panel to call in importers after 2 alleged smugglers flee to China

BUREAU OF CUSTOMS

TWO PERSONALITIES involved in the importation business and suspected to be complicit in smuggling operations have fled to China, according to a lawmaker, as a House panel approved on Monday a proposal to call in 10 others who may have knowledge on the illegal operations. 

“I was informed that two of the (personalities) have already fled to China,” Sultan Kudarat Rep. Horacio P. Suansing said at a House committee on ways and means meeting. 

Mr. Suansing named 10 individuals who are importers, brokers, or facilitators allegedly involved in the smuggling of goods into the country. He did not specify the identities of the two personalities who have reportedly escaped. 

The committee approved Mr. Suansing’s manifestation to invite the 10 personalities to the succeeding committee meetings. 

He also requested for the records of all importations of the consignees he cited.

The solon also noted that while the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that the value of agricultural imports that entered the Philippines from all countries in 2021 was $14 million, the United Nations International Trade Statistics Database show that Chinese agricultural and fish exports that entered the Philippines, excluding fruits and nuts, was worth $138 million that year.   

“That is a $124-million gap in (the) reported data from the Philippines and from the United Nations International Trade Statistics Database,” he said in his sponsorship speech.  

AGAP Party-list Rep. Nicanor M. Briones called for an amendment of the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016 in terms of enforcement.  

“Hopefully, we should have a national anti-agricultural smuggling council with the majority of its members coming from the agri sectors. Under the council is a task force that will catch (smugglers),” Mr. Briones said.   

Meanwhile, Albay Rep. Jose Ma. Clemente S. Salceda, chair of the ways and means committee, called the issue on expensive onions “solvable.”  

“Just give farmers cold storage so they don’t have to sell to ‘cartellists’, keep imports flowing in limited numbers that can undercut price bubbles, and you will see those prices fall very quickly,” Mr. Salceda said. 

Mr. Suansing also requested the Assessment and Operations Coordinating Group of the Bureau of Customs to submit load port survey reports on all commodities from 2020 to 2022. — Beatriz Marie D. Cruz 

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