Top BOC officials deny involvement in agriculture smuggling

Published June 28, 2022, 5:58 PM

by Aaron Recuenco 

Bureau of Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero denied on Tuesday, June 28, any involvement in the smuggling of agriculture products after his name was listed in the supposed “validated” list of government officials involved in the illegal activities.

In a statement, Guerrero cited the accomplishments of the BOC under his leadership as the reason why it is impossible for him to be involved in smuggling activities involving agriculture products.

He was reacting to the list that came out during the Senate hearing.

“I vehemently deny the accusations against me on my alleged involvement in agricultural smuggling based on a supposed ‘validated’ list,” said Guerrero in a statement.

“The Senate Committee report citing me as one of the government officials involved in agricultural smuggling also contains the numerous accomplishments of BOC in its campaign against agricultural smuggling, and the adoption of the executive recommendations, which I directed,” he added.

The smuggling of agriculture products cost farmers and businessmen millions of pesos losses as cheaper vegetables and other agriculture products, mostly from China, have started flooding the local market.

Since last year, there were already reports that some vegetable farmers were forced to dump their products as nobody would want to buy their goods.

In the Senate hearing, Guerrero was tagged as among the officials who have been operating smuggling activities that include release of multi-million pesos of agriculture products from other countries.

Guerrero, however, said he was among those who recommended measures to stop the smuggling activities.

“Among these recommendations we implemented are the strengthened inter-agency collaboration and data exchange of relevant information and document such as the Inward Foreign Manifest, among others,” said Guerrero.

“We also allowed DA representatives to take part in the non-intrusive inspection of containers to ensure full transparency in the examination of agricultural products. The BOC also offered DA to deputize its personnel for enforcement operations,” he added.

The official said the reforms he initiated also allocated more resources to enforcement assets through the procurement of 200 body-worn cameras, 20 units of fast patrol vessels, 60 advanced mobile x-ray machines, 16 Trace Detection Systems, and 100 rifles. Further, 199 new enforcement personnel were hired, and 40 were promoted since 2018.

“With these measures in place, we were able to seize a total of PHP 2.5 billion worth of smuggled agricultural products in various ports nationwide from 2016 to May 2022, while a total of 111 criminal cases have been filed before the Department of Justice against unscrupulous stakeholders. Moreover, 84 importers and customs brokers involved in agricultural smuggling were revoked of their accreditation since 2019,” said Gerrero.

He aded: “We firmly denounce fraudulent importations of agricultural products. BOC remains committed to its mandate of securing the country’s borders against the entry of smuggled agricultural products and other illicit goods.”

In a separate statement, BOC-Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service Director Jeoffrey Tacio also denied the allegation after he was also named in the list.

“I strongly take exception to my inclusion in the list of alleged protectors of unscrupulous personalities involved in the smuggling of agricultural products mentioned in the Senate Committee Report. I vehemently deny that I am a coddler of smugglers,” said Tacio.

He cited the same reasons as that of Guerrero, adding that the list may have been produced by those that were affected by their operations.

“Whoever gave the list may have been one of the smugglers whom we have apprehended their shipments. But we will not be deterred. We are more inspired to continue doing our mandate to protect our borders and prevent smuggling to the last day. Manghuli pa kami ng manghuli as the Commissioner has ordered us,” said Tacio.