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Customs chief orders tight watch on steel importation

September 14, 2019

BUREAU of Customs (BoC) Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero on Friday ordered a tight watch on all incoming imported steel bars amid reports that substandard steel products continue to flood the country.

“Commissioner Guerrero ordered that all steel importations be subjected to post clearance audit and to do excessive profiling [on importers]. Strict instructions were also made on the ground [on the entry of steel products],” Assistant Customs Commissioner Vincent Philip Maronilla told The Manila Times.

Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero

This is in reaction to the paper’s report on Friday that top officials of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and BoC were allegedly in collusion with big steel manufacturers in facilitating the entry of substandard steel, which deprives the government of billions of pesos in taxes and duties.

“Commissioner Guerrero is taking seriously the information of Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) Chairman Dante Jimenez and would not take the matter sitting down under his leadership,” he added.

He said the implications were not just on Customs and the DTI, but on the structural integrity of buildings that puts people in grave danger.

The bureau’s intelligence office has already pinpointed for investigation some Customs officials and employees, but Maronilla, however, refused to name names pending results of the investigation of alleged corrupt customs personnel.

He said a coordination meeting would be held next week with PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica for additional information relative to the earlier information from Jimenez.

He added that while the BoC has authority to examine imported products, the technical expertise relative to product standard (PS) remains with the DTI and the Bureau of Product Standard (BPS).

“As far as product standard is concerned, we defer to the DTI. We presume that once there is a PS mark, it is legitimate,” Maronilla added. “But, just the same, we are working with the BPS and with the Fair Trade and Enforcement Bureau to plan out and conduct a series of examination outside.”

Earlier, welfare advocacy group National Coaltion of Filipino Consumer also aired a similar concern against the proliferation of imported substandard construction materials currently flooding the local market, saying these products could inflict long-term negative impact on the country’s infrastructure and construction sector.

The group pointed out that the Philippines is located in an earthquake and typhoon zone, notably the so-called Asia’s Ring of Fire, making it one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world.

In December 2016, the Philippine Iron and Steel Institute, the umbrella organization for the local steel industry, revealed that “substandard and uncertified steel bars” were used in the buildings that were damaged during the 2013 Cebu and Bohol earthquakes.

Consumer group United Filipino Consumers and Commuters (UFCC), meanwhile, expressed belief that the ambush-slay of Customs Deputy Commissioner Arturo Lachica of the Internal Administrative Group was related to steel smuggling.

UFCC vice president Mike Aragon said he and UFCC President Rodolfo Javellana Jr. were at Lachica’s office in the BoC several hours before the ambush-slay to submit the group’s complaint letter on the alleged smuggling of P500 million worth of steel rebars at the Port of Subic.

“As far as we are concerned and based on what Deputy Commissioner Lachica has told us before he was gunned down, we believe that it has something to do with the BoC war against corruption,” Aragon told The Times.

Lachica was shot to death by an unknown assailant on Nov. 17, 2016 in Sampaloc, Manila, a few hours after he received the UFCC’s complaint letter.

Aragon added during that meeting, Lachica told them that the same importer of steel bars, Mannage Resources Trading Corp. (MRTC), filed a case against the late deputy Customs commissioner in connection with the same steel shipment.

In the letter of complaint, UFCC claimed it had uncovered that the MRTC is set to pay a tariff equivalent only to $2 per metric tons of steel, while it is supposed to pay the standard international tariff of $25 per metric tons. The computed disparity is 88 percent intentionally falsified declaration.

“This arrangement is highly disadvantageous to the government because $2 that MRTC is set to pay is far less than the industry standard of $25. When the anomaly was exposed to the mass media the BOC abruptly raised the tariff to $16.82 per metric tons from $2. However this is still very short of the $25 that MRTC must righteously pay for the shipment,” it said.

“It clearly appears that an attempted technical smuggling is in the offing as seen in this case. This is the prime reason why the Bureau of Customs is falling short of their targeted collections. The government is losing around P200 billion to p300 billion every year in the BoC’s tax collection target due to rampant smuggling,” Javellana said.

Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net

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