PEZA probes cigarette smuggling

Published January 27, 2021, 7:00 AM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) is investigating the alleged smuggling of cigarettes into one of its economic zones in Cavite.

PEZA Director General Charito “Ching” Plaza said in a statement that on January 18, 2021, the Manila International Container Port (MICP) apprehended 2×40 containers containing undeclared cigarettes allegedly bound to the First Cavite Industrial Estate (FCIE) Special Economic Zone.  Plaza lauded the Bureau of Customs (BOC) for the immediate apprehension of shipment containing smuggled cigarettes.

 “We’re now trying to identify how and where these smuggled items not included in the locators’ importation permit were inserted in their containers. We’re also tracing the owner of the vessel and its route where insertions could have occurred,” said Plaza. 

The subject shipment was verified to originate from China consigned to YJC International Corporation, a PEZA-registered export enterprise. Based on the Alert Order on the shipments issued by BOC, the shipments were found to contain, among others, 1,599 cartons of cigarettes. As a matter of PEZA procedure, PEZA does not interfere with BOC on actions it may take on shipments of PEZA enterprises that have been issued an Alert Order. 

“We thank BOC for their immediate action on their discovery. We at PEZA do not tolerate violations by a PEZA-registered enterprise to custom rules and regulations. PEZA has already issued a show cause order to the said company and is conducting its own investigation on the incident,” said the PEZA Chief. 

Plaza said that PEZA has been recognized by both the local and international organizations like the US Department of State, Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), and the Presidential Communications Operations Office for its best practices and performance during the pandemic.

“We do not want this ‘bad apple’ to taint the integrity of other PEZA enterprises and obliterate the gains and brand of excellence and in the regulatory role of PEZA over the past 25 years,” noted Plaza. 

The Director General has already requested for a meeting with BOC Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero to tackle the matter and to strengthen cooperation to prevent the occurrence of any further incident similar to this. 

Likewise, PEZA is continuously collaborating with BOC for the effective implementation of the Electronic Tracking of Containerized Cargo (E-TRACC) system for containerized shipments bound to PEZA zones using a risk-based approach. 

Under the PEZA law, “Export Processing Zone (EPZ)” is a specialized industrial estate located physically and/or administratively outside customs territory, predominantly oriented to export production.

Enterprises located in export processing zones are allowed to import capital equipment and raw materials free from duties, taxes and other import restrictions. Notwithstanding, PEZA and BOC have existing partnerships and cooperation to properly monitor entry of imported products. This collaboration has been proven effective in the long years of PEZA’s existence.