“Disagreements” with other government agencies and bidding “syndicates” delay the disposal of confiscated goods, especially perishable commodities such as rice, Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Rozzano “Ruffy” Biazon admitted on Tuesday.
In a statement sent to the media, Biazon claimed that current “policy differences” among the various government agencies and departments have been dragging efforts to dispose off confiscated goods.
Biazon said the bureau is now eyeing a “web-based” bidding system or “e-bidding” in a bid to boost government revenues from the disposal of seized and confiscated goods while also neutralizing “syndicates’” allegedly rigging the present manual bidding process for their own gains.
He cited the bidding for the seized rice in Cebu that had to be stopped last month with only 50 containers auctioned off, after the National Food Authority said it should be allowed to purchase the rice in bulk including the 90,000 bags of rice confiscated by the bureau at the Port of Legazpi.
As no policy is in place, Biazon said Customs should be allowed to dispose the rice the soonest time possible in order not to “devalue” it, being a perishable commodity.
He also lamented that Customs is paying for storage coast that is already eating up on the government’s potential revenue from its immediate auction.
Biazon said the innovation is among the many now under consideration by his office.
He earlier announced that “outsourcing” or privatization of customs bidding is another option under consideration to promote transparency in the process and generate more income for the government “at the fastest time possible.”
He also noted the urgency of reforming customs bidding as the bureau’s inventory of seized goods has been on the increase in view of the “success” of its anti-smuggling operations.
Since last month, the agency confiscated smuggled goods worth more than P1 billion consisting of used clothing, fake medicines and supplements, rice and sugar even as the bidding for confiscated rice worth over P1-billion seized in the ports of Cebu and Legazpi during the election campaign period is yet to be completed.
Under the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines, seized, forfeited and abandoned articles can only be disposed by Customs through public auction or destruction in case where the articles are already found “dangerous to public health.”
“They never learn their lesson. But the Bureau of Customs will not stop teaching them a lesson, if only to send the message that we are seriously pursuing the government’s anti-smuggling drive,” Biazon said following a Monday inspection of confiscated rice and sugar worth P42 million as he stressed on the BOC’s unrelenting drive to eradicate smuggling in the country.
“They will not succeed in their illicit activities while the agency is under my watch,” warned the BoC chief.
The products were seized after operatives of the Port of Manila (POM)- Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service, an operating unit of the Intelligence Group conducted an investigation during the period May 26 to June 3 of this year.
During the inspection, Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon said that the shipment of rice that arrived at the POM from Vietnam in 16 twenty-footer container vans was worth P28 million, were consigned to Highest Regard Enterprises and Victorious One Enterprises.
The eight twenty-footer container vans that contained smuggled sugar from Thailand worth P14 million were all consigned to Highest Regard Enterprises.
He said another eight 20-footer container vans of smuggled sugar from Thailand and consigned to Highest Regard Enterprises were also seized by Customs agents at the same port.
The Customs chief, who personally inspected the contraband, said the illegally imported rice and sugar were seized after these were found to have violated Section 2503 of the Tariffs and Customs Code of the Philippines for misdeclaration.
The shipments were misdeclared as steel frames, steel coils and hinges in their entries.