CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Misamis Oriental, Philippines — The Bureau of Customs (BOC) in Northern Mindanao said it would closely watch illegally shipped goods entering local ports in the region after it seized and destroyed P50 million worth of wrongfully declared imported cigarettes from China.
The contraband, earlier declared by the importer as pieces of office furniture, arrived at the Mindanao Container Terminal port in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental, in two 40-foot container vans on Sept. 18 last year and was finally destroyed at a facility in Barangay Mantibugao, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon, on July 28.
Oliver Valiente, chief of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service in Northern Mindanao, said the confiscated items consisted of 1,700 master cases or 85,000 reams of cigarettes carrying local and imported brands, such as Two Moon, Mighty, Marvel and Royal. The items were consigned to Denian Dry Goods Trading based in Davao region, he said
Ways to ‘skin a cat’
Lawyer Elvira Cruz, BOC regional district collector, said the consignee would face charges for violating section 1400 (misdeclaration of goods description) of Republic Act No. 10863, or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.
Valiente said the BOC would have to step up its monitoring of contraband as traders engaged in illegal shipment had also been innovating their ways to avoid detection.
“These business operators are finding new ways and means to skin a cat, so to speak,” he said. “[Cigarette trading] is a lucrative business. There are unscrupulous businessmen who want to earn fast money. They will devise means to outsmart us,” Valiente said in a phone interview on July 31.
One of the ways commonly used by illegal traders is to label their smuggled cigarettes as “Philippine-made” so they would pay less taxes, Valiente said.
But he said they were keeping their vigilance up so that no illegal shipment could pass through the region’s ports undetected.
“While the products are still in transit on their way here, we already receive information from our counterparts in the international community,” he said.
Valiente said the BOC’s good relationship with the intelligence agencies in other countries had so far been very helpful in curbing the entry of illegal products to the Philippines and Northern Mindanao.
—JIGGER J. JERUSALEM
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