SMUGGLED Agents from the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service at the Manila International Container Port inspect boxes of alleged smuggled agricultural products in six warehouses in the cities of Manila, Navotas, and Caloocan in this undated photo. The team temporarily padlocked the warehouses, to be followed by an inventory of the goods. (Courtesy of BOC)

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) on Monday reported that a series of inspections of six warehouses in three cities in Metro Manila yielded PHP150 million worth of agricultural products, including frozen meat and fresh fruits.

In a statement, the Bureau reported that the operations led by agents of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service-Manila International Container Port proceeded to the six cold storage facilities located in cities of Caloocan, Manila, and Navotas after the issuance of Letters of Authority (LOAs) by Customs Commissioner Bien Rubio on April 12.

After the representatives of the warehouses acknowledged the LOA, the team found imported agricultural products — frozen beef, pork, chicken, round scad, squid, and fish products — including fresh fruits, such as apples, oranges, grapes, and kiwi from China with an estimated value of PHP150 million.

“Right now, our team is a well-oiled machine running after these smuggling groups. The operations showed how our officers work day and night to make sure these products will not make it to our local markets,” Rubio said.

“Law enforcement and border control are challenging works. Borders, in particular, are dynamic environments. We hope we are sending a clear message to these groups that we will never tire.”

The BOC composite team proceeded to temporarily padlock and seal the warehouses, including the empty storage facility.

If found without proper documents, the corresponding seizure and forfeiture proceedings will be conducted against the subject shipments for violation of Sec. 1400 (misdeclaration in goods declaration) in relation to Sec. 1113 (property subject to seizure and forfeiture) of Republic Act No. 10863 or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.

In a related statement, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said rampant smuggling of tobacco and alcohol products, in addition to agricultural produce, also results in billions of losses in revenues.

The government imposes excise tax on alcohol, tobacco, cigarette and vapor products, petroleum, automobiles, non-essential goods and services, sweetened beverages, and mineral products.

“Smuggling of these products deprives the government of much-needed revenues necessary to finance various programs and projects and sustain economic growth and development,” Gatchalian said in a news release on Monday.

In March, the BOC-Port of Cagayan de Oro foiled an attempt to smuggle two containers of cigarettes valued at PHP160 million.

The month before, authorities seized PHP600,000 worth of undocumented cigarettes in Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte and some PHP2 million worth of suspected smuggled cigarettes in Cauayan, Negros Occidental. (PNA) 

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