Amid the continuous price increase of onion that already hit P720 per kilo this week, intelligence and investigation agents of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) seized another multi-million peso worth of agricultural products that include sacks of onions believed to have been smuggled into the country.
Interestingly, the almost P140 million worth of confiscated agricultural products was consigned again to a Muntinlupa City-based Taculog J International Consumer Goods Trading, according to BOC Commissioner Yogi Filemon Ruiz.
Quoting a report from the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service-Manila International Container Port (CIIS-MICP) which conducted the operation, Ruiz said the shipments were declared to contain udon noodles and frozen dim sum balls, but turned out to be undeclared fresh red and white onions, frozen ox tripe, frozen barbecue, and frozen craw fish.
They arrived in the country from China between Nov. 27 to Dec. 3.
The BOC has been aggressively conducting anti-smuggling operations in the country based on the order of President Marcos amid complaints of rampant smuggling activities that would result in high prices of agricultural commodities and eventually affects local farmers.
The seizure of smuggled agricultural products was made in cooperation with the Department of Agriculture (DA) because their importation requires clearance from the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), which falls under the ambit of DA.
The shipment that arrived on Nov. 25, 2022 and examined on Dec. 28 were initially declared to contain frozen lobster, frozen prawn balls, and frozen crab stick but was later found to also have undeclared frozen ox tripe worth P15.5 million.
Containers that arrived on Nov. 27 and examined from Dec. 27 to 29 were declared to have udon noodles, frozen lobster, frozen prawn balls, and frozen crab sticks. Upon examination, these containers had undeclared fresh red onions, frozen barbecue, and frozen craw fish that amounted to P46.7 million.
Four shipments on Dec. 3, and examined from Dec. 27 to 29 were declared to contain only udon noodles, but examiners instead found undeclared fresh red and white onions amounting to an estimated total value of P77.5 million.
Ruiz said he was livid upon finding out that the same company almost managed to bring in hundreds of millions worth of smuggled agricultural products into the country in less than two months.
“Although I am proud of our men and what they were able to accomplish these past weeks, I am appalled at the gall of these groups. We have reports coming in that a kilo of red onions sells for P720 in the markets. Bringing a hot commodity like onions into our borders without going through the proper procedures is an affront to our farmers, the people who make sure we have enough supply of it,” he stressed.
This recent operation comes after the bureau reported seizing P171,350,000 worth of smuggled agricultural products, including fresh red and white onions, from containers that arrived from Nov. 12 to Dec. 3 consigned to the same company.
The estimated total value of undeclared agricultural products that Taculog J International Consumer Goods Trading meant to smuggle into the country from November to December 2022 amounted to a total of P327,427,500.
"The entry of smuggled agricultural products into the local markets affects the agricultural sector, the workers of which fall under the country’s poorest of the poor," said Ruiz.
Customs Deputy Commissioner retired Maj. Gen. Juvymax Uy emphasized the need to conduct aggressive operations amid the impact of agricultural smuggling to ordinary Filipinos, especially during the holiday season.
“As Filipinos, we love to gather around the table during the holidays and share whatever food we have, but it seems that many of our kababayans won’t even get to cook their favorite spaghetti recipe because of the high cost of onions and other food products. For the bureau, just the mere act of trying to cross our borders with undeclared items is an insult,” said Uy.
Uy then lauded BOC agents, particularly the CIIS-MICP for the series of multi-million peso worth of successful operations in the few past months.
“I can’t praise our people enough. I know how hard they’ve been working to get to the bottom of how this company operates. And to do it during the holidays, that takes a special kind of commitment and dedication,” Uy added.