By Ellson Quismorio
Pointing to the sheer number of container vans that enter the country sans inspection, BUHAY Party-List Rep. Lito Atienza underscored on Monday the need to impose mandatory inspection at the containers’ port of origin.
“Smuggling continues unabated and as a result, hundreds of billions of pesos in revenue are lost every year. Containers filled with tons of illegal drugs and other contrabands and luxury items continue to enter our ports and many of them even enjoying the privilege of using the ‘green lanes’ to facilitate their entry,” said Atienza, author of House Bill (HB) No. 2591.
The measure seeks to amend Section 440 of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA), making all cargo in container vans undergo mandatory inspection before leaving their port of origin. This pre-shipment inspection provision is currently optional.
Atienza aggressively pushed for the consideration of his measure before the House Committee on Ways and Means Monday in a public hearing.
Attending the hearing was Bureau of Customs (BOC) Assistant Commissioner Vincent Philip Maronilla, who was asked by Atienza regarding the number of container vans that enter the Philippines and how many of them actually get inspected or opened up.
Maronilla said between 10,000 to 12,000 containers enter local ports each day, with only 20 to 25 percent of those getting inspected by the BOC.
“This means 75 to 80 percent of containers are not even opened up. So what is the basis for computing the taxes they are supposed to pay?” Atienza said during the hearing.
“Smuggling continues unabated and as a result, hundreds of billions of pesos in revenue are lost every year. Containers filled with tons of illegal drugs and other contrabands and luxury items continue to enter our ports and many of them even enjoying the privilege of using the ‘green lanes’ to facilitate their entry,” he said.
The BOC’s green lane is a privilege lane supposedly reserved for containers from trusted importers or those with clean records.
Atienza further slammed the BOC for “not even touching” the 2015 CMTA’s pre-shipment inspection provision, claiming they have not even laid out its implementing rules and regulations.
The former Manila mayor pointed out that the implementation of the mandatory inspection and clearance of all container vans before leaving their point of origin would remove all personal and discretionary assessment of done by Customs personnel at their points of entry in the Philippines.
“That is where corruption enters the picture. This is the biggest problem that we must address squarely. Kapag ipinatupad ang mandatory pre-shipment inspection, masisiguro na makokolekta ang tamang buwis at matitigil ang pagpasok ng ilegal drugs at iba pang kontrabando,” he said.
(If the mandatory pre-shipment inspection is enforced, the proper collection of taxes and prevention of the entry of illegal drugs and other contraband would be assured.)
“The government’s efforts against illegal drugs will be useless if tons of ‘shabu’ continue to enter our ports through un-inspected container vans, even using the green lanes,” Atienza stressed.
Ways and Means panel chairman, Albay 2nd district Rep. Joey Salceda formed during the hearing a technical working group (TWG) that would handle the consolidation of HB No.2591 along with other bills seeking amendments to the CMTA. Atienza was named a vice-chairman of the TWG.
“We accept the responsibility to work on this very important bill,” Atienza said.