BOC: P91 billion smuggled goods seized under Duterte’s term

Elijah Felice Rosales - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Smuggled goods including illegal drugs valued at more than P91 billion were confiscated by government agents as the smuggling of various products intensified during the implementation of pandemic lockdowns, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) reported yesterday.

Data obtained by The STAR showed that the BOC seized a total of P91.15 billion worth of smuggled imports from July 2016 to March this year, with only one quarter left in President Duterte’s term.

Nearly 43 percent of the smuggled products amounting to P39.06 billion were confiscated during the pandemic: P10.63 billion in 2020 and P28.43 billion in 2021.

According to the BOC, illegal drugs accounted for 19 percent of the volume at P16.91 billion, with the bulk of the haul at P6.63 billion confiscated in 2017.

In the first quarter of 2022, Customs agents prevented the entry of P3.89 billion worth of smuggled goods. Of the figure, 39 percent or P1.53 billion consisted of illegal drugs. The BOC also confiscated shipping containers of counterfeit products at different ports.

On agricultural smuggling, the Customs committed last week to strengthen border protection to stop the entry of illegal produce causing losses for local farmers.

Since 2019, the BOC has carried out a total of 542 raids, which yielded nearly P2 billion in agricultural products that smugglers tried to sneak in.

The Customs has filed 103 cases against traders and importers allegedly involved in the smuggling of farm imports since 2016.

BOC Assistant Commissioner Vincent Philip Maronilla said authorities needs to recalibrate measures against cigarette smugglers who now conduct their illegal trade through open shorelines.

Based on intelligence, traders of illegal cigarettes ship their products through large vessels. Upon entering Philippine waters, they switch off their radar and linger within nearby communities, where small ships approach them at nighttime to collect the packages.

As the economy recovers from the pandemic, Customs officials say they expect smuggling to pick up with border restrictions being lifted and import volumes increasing.

Imports jumped by more than 31 percent to $117.88 billion last year, from $89.81 billion in 2020. Exports rose by over 14 percent to $74.65 billion, from $65.21 billion.

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