Customs operatives intercepted five 40-foot container vans at the Manila International Container Port (MICP), loaded with frozen chicken products worth P30 million from China.
Members of the MICP-Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service on Wednesday seized the smuggled shipment consigned to Lycan Consumer Goods Trading.
“We need to act fast if we want to catch up to these groups. My standing order is to not delay the issuance of needed documents that will allow our agents to do their jobs well,” said Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero, who has criticized the latest “smear campaign” against his agency related to agricultural smuggling.
Senator Imee Marcos on Friday sought a deeper investigation into the illegal practice and the prosecution of culprits within the first 100 days of the new administration led by her brother.
This was after the Senate Committee of the Whole earlier this week released a list of 22 personalities from the Bureau of Customs, Department of Agriculture, and local government officials purportedly involved in, or are protectors of, agricultural smuggling.
In a related development, Rep. Paolo Duterte of Davao City has called for reforms in the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC) to make the agency financially sustainable and more responsive to the needs of small subsistence farmers.
The Customs bureau placed the shipment under 100 percent examination after receiving “derogatory information” that it contain frozen chicken products and not “hotpot balls” as declared by the importers.
Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence Raniel Ramiro received the information that paved the way for the issuance of the Pre-Lodgement Control Orders (PLCOs) by MICP District Collector Romeo Allan Rosales.
The CIIS men oversaw the 100 percent examination of the shipment and found it to contain frozen peeled chicken breast, frozen skinless chicken breast, frozen skinless cut chicken, frozen peeled chicken breast, and frozen chicken skinless big breast.
The latest apprehension comes amid reports of chicken supply shortages in public markets and restaurants.
Rosales is expected to issue a Warrant of Seizure and Detention (WSD) against the shipment, while Lycan Consumer Goods Trading and its broker will face cases of smuggling filed by the bureau.
“We’re thankful that Commissioner Guerrero always had our back. Doing intelligence is not easy because you need to go through and verify information, but we always have his full support,” Ramiro said.
These operations against agricultural smuggling are continuous operations even before a report was submitted to former Senate President Vicente Sotto III that named high-ranking Customs officials as protectors of agricultural smugglers.
A Customs official, who requested not to be named, earlier criticized the timing of the report and lamented how other groups are trying to pull down the agency when it had successfully improved its image under Guerrero’s leadership.
The official called the report a “demolition job” against the commissioner despite the numerous accomplishments and innovations he introduced that led to an efficient collection of revenue and trade facilitation but stricter border protection.
Under Guerrero’s watch, the bureau surpassed the revenue collection targets and sustained operations resulting in a record high P28 billion worth of seizures of commodities such as drugs and smuggled
agricultural products last year.
Several officials and personnel in the bureau believed that the list is baseless after it was denied by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency.