Traders, smugglers taking advantage of pandemic now under watch – BOC

Published April 29, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Betheena Unite

Illegal traders who are taking advantage of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic by selling overpriced and smuggled personal protective gears and unregistered medicines are being closely watched by the Bureau of Customs-Intelligence Group (BOC-IG).

The BOC-IG said that “there is an ongoing case build-up by the bureau, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to pin down personalities illegally selling medicines which can allegedly cure the COVID-19 infection.”

According to the bureau, it has been monitoring unscrupulous businessmen who are taking advantage of the pandemic to sell their products at a higher price and have even ventured into selling illegal medicines.

In its operations, the Customs bureau said that it has been continuously coordinating with concerned agencies such as the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), DTI, and NBI in investigating traders selling medicines claiming to cure COVID-19 with no Food and Drug Administration (FDA) permit.

“The BOC-IG has been closely monitoring situation at the various ports and validating reports of smuggled personal protective equipment (PPEs) and medical supplies that are of great demand at this time of pandemic,” the bureau said.

“In coordination with counterparts from the NBI, DTI, and PCG, the BOC has been keeping its ears close to the ground and validating with reliable sources for possible leads on illegal selling of essential health supplies and medicines,” it added.

From March 25 to March 31, the Customs intelligence group uncovered three medical supply stores in Manila and confiscated an estimated P20-million worth of PPEs and medical supplies such as face masks, gloves, goggles, alcohols, thermal scanners, test tubes, and syringes.

Forfeiture proceeding is now under way against the three establishments before the Customs Law Division, with the owners facing possible criminal charges.