BOC raids in 24 Manila, Malabon warehouses yield P150M worth of 'smuggled' onions, garlic

Around P150 million worth of agricultural products were seized in separate raids on 24 warehouses in Malabon and Manila as the Bureau of Customs (BOC) further stepped up the campaign against smuggling.

The raids conducted on Friday, Feb, 17, came barely a week after BOC Commissioner Bienvenido Rubio formally took his oath of office and vowed to pursue strategic operations in running after smugglers in the country.

Intelligence Officer 3 Alvin Enciso, chief of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service at the Manila International Container Port (CIIS-MICP), looks up at the pile of suspected smuggled garlic during an inpection of a raided warehouse in Malabon. (photo: BOC)

"We will be relentless in the fight against agricultural smuggling. Rest assured that the BOC is steadfast in patrolling our borders and protecting our local farmers against illicit traders of agricultural products," Rubio said.

Earlier, the BOC also seized more than P90 million worth of sugar and cigarettes believed to have been smuggled into the country during an inspection at the Manila International Container Port.

The operations were based on the Letters of Authority (LOA) issued by Rubio based on confirmed intelligence reports of possible smuggling and hoarding activities involving agricultural products, particularly onions and garlic.

BOC Intelligence Group Deputy Commissioner Juvymax Uy said the warehouses, majority of which were located in Tondo, Manila while one each was found in Malabon City and in Binondo, respectively, was found with fresh onions, fresh garlic, and other products.

Backed by operatives from other law enforcement agencies that include the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Coast Guard, agents of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service-Manila International Container Port (CIIS-MICP), served the LOAs issued by Rubio.

"Warehouse representatives acknowledged the LOAs and allowed the team to inspect the warehouses. After finding the suspected smuggled products, the team proceeded to temporarily padlock and seal the warehouses and storage areas," said Uy.

Uy said the consignees of the products would be asked to present importation documents while the goods will be subjected to an inventory on their respective location by the assigned Customs examiner: "This would be witnessed by CIIS and Enforcement and Security Service (ESS) agents."

If found without proper documents, Uy said the corresponding seizure and forfeiture proceedings will be conducted against the subject shipments for violation of Sec. 1400 (misdeclaration in goods declaration) in relation to Sec. 1113 (property subject to seizure and forfeiture) of Republic Act No. 10863 known as the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) and Republic Act 10845 or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016.

The case records will also be forwarded to the Bureau's Action Team Against Smugglers (BATAS) for the filing of appropriate charges and criminal cases against those responsible for the illegal importation of the said agricultural products.

Uy said the successful operations wouldn’t be possible without the leadership of Rubio.

“The good commissioner is very determined and is, in fact, pushing the bureau harder to fulfill our thrust of border protection. His understanding of the importance of acting swiftly on information we receive on a daily basis led us to the discovery of hundreds of millions worth of suspected smuggled agricultural products in just one day,” he said.