Digitalization to curb smuggling?

SENTINEL - Ramon T. Tulfo - The Philippine Star

So, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will curb onion smuggling. I wish him luck.

Smuggling is rampant, not only of agricultural products but also of manufactured goods, since the government has stifled local initiatives.

In fairness to BBM, the problem is a legacy of all previous presidents.

Carrots and tomatoes cost so much in the market, and yet tons of them are also rotting in the fields of Benguet.

There is only one reason. The government is failing to help farmers transport their harvest to population centers.

That’s exactly what’s happening with onions in Nueva Ecija and with all kinds of agricultural goods in all parts of the country. It is not so much a failure in production as it is in distribution.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) is a lumbering dinosaur. Many of its officers are probably unimaginative, incompetent, lazy or corrupt. Many are probably the smugglers themselves. If such is the case, they have all the incentives to kill farmers and manufacturers.

Have you noticed how warehouse outlets and stores billing themselves as “Japanese Surplus” are sprouting all over the country? They sell kitchenware – pots and pans, glasses and cups, forks and spoons – and all kinds of furniture and household knickknacks. They are also found in various malls around the country.

The Bureau of Customs has its hands full processing ten- and 20-foot containers with these items inside. Do you know why? It is because we do not manufacture them, or we stopped trying. Even the nail cutters hawked by itinerant vendors are imported from Taiwan.

Many items sold in “Japanese Surplus” stores are second-hand, though of good quality.

These items are not smuggled. They are imported into the country to fill a need. The point is this: our industry, like our agriculture, is in big trouble.

Against smuggling, President BBM has a ready solution: digitalization. There is nothing wrong with that.

Modernization is a good thing, but the success – or failure – of a project rests on the people implementing it, be it in the government or the private sector.

The President has his hands full these days, attending to all the various things he must attend to as part of his job, and to other people’s eyes, it looks like he’s not very good at it. To some, he looks like a juggler who isn’t very good at catching all the balls in the air.

But this may be on purpose. He may have realized what many knew all along, that people can easily forget the many issues that have cropped up in his time.

He appointed LtGen. Bartolome Bacarro as chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, replacing Gen. Andres Centino, who was appointed by then president Digong Duterte. And then, President Junior suddenly reinstated Centino. This strange situation looked like a game of musical chairs, as I wrote in my column on Jan. 14.

That, he says, will fix the seniority issue. But if that was the case, why did he not just stick with Centino? If this was about boosting the morale of the AFP or preventing possible unrest in the ranks, then what happened achieved the opposite effect.

Whoever is exerting influence over the President is doing him a disservice. The general public is getting the impression that he has no mind of his own and is not fully in control.

Oh, by the way, Centino is from Tacloban, Leyte, where BBM’s mother hails from.

*      *      *

Retired Admiral Rodolfo Isorena, a former Coast Guard commandant, has been cleared by the Sandiganbayan in connection with the irregular procurement of phone cards worth more than P6 million in 2014.

But some of his former subordinates were convicted and meted out prison terms.

Isorena, the court said, had nothing to do with the illegal procurement.

The accusation against Isorena, though, pales in comparison to a complaint against one of his predecessors, a sex pervert.

That former Coast Guard chief was involved in a disturbing event, with him showing conduct very unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman (emphasis on the latter).

That Coast Guard chief played with himself in front of a very attractive woman, who had paid him a visit at his office.

The woman was a representative of a company that supplied the Coast Guard with sundry office items.

The obviously oversexed cuckoo couldn’t control himself upon seeing the beautiful woman in his office.

The then admiral locked the door from the inside, while the woman was seated.

He unzipped his pants and held his “thing” in front of the bewildered young woman.

The commandant and the woman ran around his table in a “catch me if you can” fashion, with the officer playing with himself while giving chase.

Fortunately, the poor girl was able to get out of the office untouched.

How did I come to know of that highly comical incident?

The girl came to my office at Isumbong mo kay Tulfo.

I reported the then-commandant to the transportation secretary at the time, who laughed out loud.

“The guy should be pitied, Mon, he’s sick in the head,” the secretary said.

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