BOC intercepts P153.6M worth of smuggled onions

Intelligence agents of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) has foiled the attempt to smuggle seven container vans of fresh onions during a spot-check examination at the Manila International Container Port (MICP) on Tuesday, Jan. 10.

BOC Commissioner Yogi Filemon Ruiz said five of the container vans were found to have undeclared fresh red onions while the other two contain fresh white onions.

Agents of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service-Manila International Container Port (CIIS-MICP) inspect onions which were part of the P153.6 million worth of onions discovered inside seven container vans on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. (photo: CIIS-MICP)

Each of the container van has an estimated value of P21,945,000 for a total of P153,615,000.

Ruiz said the operation is part of the commitment of the BOC following the order of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., to be aggressive in the campaign against agricultural smuggling.

“We are fully aware of the woes of our kababayans because of the prices of goods, particularly fresh onions. We are taking extra steps to make sure these perpetrators are brought to justice and free our markets from illegally sourced and imported products that could further impact the agricultural sector,” said Ruiz.

The price of the onion has reached as high as P780 per kilo last month, the spiraling price has triggered the importation of over 20,000 metric tons of onions to stabilize its price in the market.

Ruiz lauded the agents of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS) and the MICP for its alertness and quick action.

CIIS Director Jeoffrey Tacio shared that the spot-examination of the containers become possible because of the information they received that they contain agricultural products and misdeclared and undeclared items.

“Again, it is only through the proper collaboration and coordination with different government agencies that our team was able to operate successfully. This is what partnership can do—catch multimillions worth of smuggled items these players are bringing into our markets,” he said.

photo: CIIS-MICP

All of the shipments arrived on Nov. 16 last year while the request for the verification of all containers was made on Nov. 18. Their release was put on hold until the Jan. 10 inspection of the container vans.

The examination was witnessed by representatives of the Department of Agriculture (DA), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), Assessment and Operations Coordinating Group (AOCG), Enforcement Security Service (ESS), Customs Anti-Illegal Drug Task Force (CAIDTF), and Chamber of Customs Brokers, Inc. (CCBI).

CIIS-MICP chief Alvin Enciso, on the other hand, said they immediately recommended for the issuance of Warrant of Seizure and Detention (WSD) after finding the smuggled onions, which he said, was consigned to Seaster Consumer Goods Trading.

"The shipment was declared as fishballs. The consignee s expected to face criminal charges," said Enciso.

For his part, Customs Deputy Commissioner Juvymax Uy stressed how important it is for the Marcos administration, the bureau, and the general public to catch the groups behind agricultural smuggling.

“We are not blind to what the people want. They want justice to be served, and that’s what we are doing here. We have a unique perspective of seeing what and how these groups operate, so we want to assure the public that we are investing in the right tools and with the right partners to bring that goal to fruition,” he said.