Government agents seized smuggled fake COVID-19 antigen test kits and other counterfeit health products worth P150 million during a raid last week at a storage facility in Manila, the Bureau of Customs said over the weekend.
The target of the raid was a warehouse at 555 Carlos Palanca Street in San Miguel. Customs agents were joined by members of the National Bureau of Investigation, local police and the Coast Guard.
The authorities seized thousands of Clungene COVID-19 antigen test kits, counterfeit LianHua Chinese herbal medicines, and fake 3M N95 face masks.
The raiding team also found intellectual property rights (IPR) infringed goods such as apparel from brands like Nike, Fila, Converse, Adidas, as well as Louis Vuitton and Gucci bags, wallets, and phone accessories.
The storage owner, a Chinese national, was arrested, but he was not identified pending further investigation.
Chief intelligence officer Alvin Enciso of the Manila International Container Port-Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service, said they had proper coordination with local barangay and police officials before the raid.
Customs Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence Raniel Ramiro commended the raiding team for their latest operation against the smuggling of counterfeit COVID-19 test kits and medicines at a time when Filipinos are scrambling to access such tests and medical care.
The storage facility owner will be charged with violation of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules and regulations.
Commissioner Guerrero said he ordered the latest operation following reports that counterfeit health goods related to COVID-19 are being sold openly in local markets.
He said it is unfortunate that these people are choosing to victimize Filipinos who have already suffered so much in the past two years because of the pandemic.
“The only thing I can think of is how ruthless they are in robbing Filipinos at a time like this. When you sell fake COVID-19 test kits and face masks—not knowing what could happen with a fake result—you are not just stealing; you’re the primary reason why some of our [countrymen] could be making fatal decisions,” Guerrero said.
“This is unacceptable not only because we are in a pandemic, but because we have already suffered for so long from these individuals. It’s really time to put a stop to it for good,” he added
Meanwhile, Philippine Red Cross Chairman (PRC) Senator Richard Gordon said on Sunday that he would push for the use of COVID-19 saliva tests in the provinces.
During his appearance on Vice President Leni Robredo’s radio show, Gordon, who is also running for another Senate term in this year’s elections, said he preferred saliva tests over the widely used antigen tests.
Robredo, who is seeking the presidency, was not present in the program.
“The problem with antigen tests… if you’re positive, you can be a false positive. Sometimes there’s also a false negative,” he said.
“That’s why RT-PCR tests are better but… saliva tests are undoubtedly cheaper. That’s what I will push for in the provinces,” he said.
The DOH has allowed the PRC to conduct saliva testing, which is priced at around P2,000 compared to RT-PCR tests that cost between P3,000 and P5,000.
Gordon also said testing will help curb the spread of COVID-19 especially amid the detection of the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
He said that the Red Cross was also beefing up its isolation facilities.