• Customs haul under Duterte: More than P1-B illegal drugs

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    The Bureau of Customs (BOC) has seized more than P1 billion in illegal drugs since President Rodrigo Duterte took office on June 30.

    Speaking to reporters in Malacanang on Friday, Neil Anthony Estrella, Customs acting spokesman for enforcement and intelligence operations, said the confiscated illegal drugs include P927 million worth of shabu obtained in 11 major operations, P17 million worth of ecstasy obtained in follow-up operations and P227.7 million worth of cocaine obtained in eight operations for a total of P1.173 billion.

    Estrella added that the biggest catch was in July in Claveria, Cagayan where 180 plastic bags of shabu worth P900 million were confiscated.

    “Commissioner [Nicanor] Faeldon stresses the bureau will continue to support President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs by strictly guarding our seaports and airports,” he said during a news conference.

    The BOC, according to Estrella, seized in July in Subic, Zambales a Chinese fishing vessel found to be manufacturing and transporting illegal drugs to the country.

    “Four Chinese who were also considered high-value targets were arrested during that operation…[They] are now in the custody of our authorities,” he said.

    Estrella added that the BOC has also impounded counterfeit products in Pasay City (Metro Manila), Bulacan and Pangasinan areas, totaling about P775 million.

    “The BOC will remain tough against smuggling. As we improve our maritime capability, we will pursue them to the farthest border of the country,” he said, quoting Faeldon.

    Estrella added that the BOC’s anti-smuggling operations contribute to its revenue collection, which increased for the month of October to P33.365 billion.

    The amount, he said, is P39 million higher compared to the amount collected for the month of September.

    “For the first 15 days only of November, the BOC has already reached 52 percent of its P36.495 billion assessed target. The bureau has so far collected P18.9 billion and is confident that the assessed collection target for November will be exceeded given these indicators,” Estrella added.

    Meanwhile, he announced the release of a total of 400 balikbayan boxes from the United States sitting undelivered at the Manila International Container Port since March.

    “The winning bidder, Pherica International, heeded the request of the Bureau of Customs that the boxes be released to their rightful recipients in time for the Christmas season. The good news is Pherica International just gave us its yes that they will give these 400 balikbayan boxes for free,” he said.

    Estrella assured that all district collectors will follow the bureau’s no-opening policy on such boxes and expedite the release and handling of these boxes.

    “The commissioner highlights the importance of balikbayan boxes, which symbolize the hardship of overseas Filipino workers and the love of Filipinos abroad for their families here in our country,” he said. CATHERINE S. VALENTE

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