EDITORIAL - Blackeye or feather?
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Freeman) - April 29, 2013 - 12:00am

It is difficult not to consider the apprehension of the "mother of all smuggled rice" consisting of more than 600,000 bags of Vietnamese rice in more than 1,000 container vans as an accomplishment by the Bureau of Customs.

That the entire shipment was valued at P1.2 billion rules out the possibility that this was just a feed -- you know, the practice of allowing an apprehension of a token haul in order to let the real haul slip through. Nobody feeds a billion to the dogs.

So this has got to be a real slambang accomplishment. But then again, can one victory, no matter how massive and significant, eliminate the cold sobering fact that if something this big is happening, then the level of smuggling in this country must already be humongous indeed.

Several years ago, an entire ship also laden with smuggled rice escaped from Customs custody and simply vanished into thin air. That it disappeared in one of the busiest shipping lanes in the country despite a massive sea and air search is one for the Guinness records.

 That it happened several years ago and that it is still happening now only underscores the fact that despite a few accomplishments here and there, the problem of smuggling is indeed still very much alive and kicking.

It is alive to fill to the rafters the coffers of those behind it, and kicking the empty and hollow national coffers away. Smuggling, especially of rice, strangles local producers and dehydrates government.

But because there is so much money to be made from smuggling, there can be no eliminating it, not even with the stoutest of promises and sternest of warnings from a national leadership that only thrives in sloganeering.

The haul is more of a slap in the face of the president than it is an accomplishment by one of his bureaus. If smuggling can't be helped under his "daang matuwid" regime, it ought to be dwindling halfway though his term, instead of escalating into the "mother of all smuggling."


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