DOF: P244-M worth of smuggled PPEs, medical supplies seized by Customs from March to May

Robie de Guzman   •   July 3, 2020   •   633

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Customs (BOC) has confiscated P244-million worth of smuggled, unregistered or counterfeit personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical supplies from March 25 to May 31, 2020, the Department of Finance (DOF) said on Friday.

In a statement, the DOF said the seizure is part of the BOC’s efforts to stop the illegal importation, storage and hoarding of goods deemed essential to the fight against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

In a report to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, the BOC said that while it has released various regulations to facilitate and speed up the process of importing PPEs and other medical supplies, some unscrupulous traders have taken advantage of the coronavirus-induced crisis to smuggle such items into the country.

In his report, Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero said he has issued 10 Letters of Authority covering the inspection of persons and premises suspected of selling or storing smuggled and/or unregistered medicines and equipment from March 25 to May 31 this year.

“Moreover, profiling/targeting of imported shipments suspected to contain contraband and other smuggled articles were intensified. As a result a total of P244.4 million-worth of smuggled/counterfeit/unregistered PPE and medicines were seized by the Bureau,” Guerrero added.

Last May 1, various PPEs, and P70-million worth of Chinese medicines that supposedly cure COVID-19 were seized by the BOC in a warehouse in Singalong, Manila.

Guerrero said in his report that the medicines, which were contained in about 360 boxes, were not registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The BOC chief also said that they have seized other medical supplies in various operations including the following:

  • P5 million worth of masks, gloves, goggles, alcohol, thermal scanners, test tubes and syringes under the name of Philmed Dynasty Supplies Corp. based in Binondo, Manila;
  • An estimated P30 million-worth of various PPEs, such as gloves, masks, and googles under the name of ELJ1 Medical Shop based in Sta. Cruz, Manila; and
  • An estimated P9 million-worth of various PPEs, such as gloves, masks, goggles from the Medical Outlet based in Rizal Avenue, Manila.
  • An estimated P80 million-worth of various PPEs, such as gloves, masks, goggles, medicines, and foodstuffs from an establishment located at HK Sun Plaza, Macapagal Blvd., Pasay City.
  • An estimated P400,000-worth of various medical supplies and medicines from Ton Ren Tang Chinese Medication, Binondo, Manila.
  • An estimated P50 million-worth of various medical equipment and supplies from Omnibus Biomedical Systems.

“The cases involving these smuggled or unregistered products are now the subject of forfeiture proceedings by the BOC before the law division of the Manila International Container Port (MICP),” Guerrero said.

Aside from these items, the BOC also reported that it seized 2.2 kilograms of imported Chinese medicines without FDA clearance last April 27, and has initiated the filing of appropriate charges against their importers and consignees.

Another five boxes of Chinese medicines containing 48,000 medicinal tablets and bundled with 238 master cases of assorted imported cigarettes; 4 drums of toluene-2.4 diisocyanate; 2 drums of propylene glycol; 2 drums of glycerol-propoxylate-block-ethoxylate; 2 drums of vacuum pump oil; 2 drums of paraffin oil; 2 drums of power steering fluid; 1 drum of sodium hypochlorite; and 2 drums of siloxane were confiscated from a warehouse in Valenzuela City last April 30.

Guerrero said these were seized and taken into custody by the BOC for failure of the owner to present the required import documents for these items.

Finance chief orders BIR, BOC to probe coops used for rice imports

Robie de Guzman   •   November 27, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has ordered the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs to assist in the investigation being conducted by the Department of Agriculture (DA) into the reported use of cooperatives by private traders as dummies for rice imports.

“There’s this question now as to why traders are using coops to import rice …. Let’s look into that because they might be using the tax advantage on rice imports,” Dominguez told BIR Commissioner Caesar Dulay and BOC Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero during a recent executive committee meeting.

Dominguez issued the directive following the DA’s decision to temporarily halt the issuance of sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances (SPSIC) to farmers’ cooperatives and irrigators’ associations for commercial purposes.

Through Administrative Order No. 34 issued in October, the DA suspended the SPSICs to coops and irrigators’ associations, effectively barring them from importing rice, after the DA received reports that these organizations have resorted to rice imports rather than carry out their purpose of procuring local rice from farmers.

Both the DOF and DA have also received reports that the SPSICs issued to cooperatives have been misused by traders to avoid legal responsibilities and evade the payment of the correct amount of import taxes.

Finance Undersecretary Antonette Tionko also noted that while cooperatives are not exempted from paying duties for importing rice, they can be exempted from paying the income tax on these imports if they are registered with the BIR as tax-exempt entities.

Through the AO, the DA directed the Bureau of Plant Industry to probe and to consult with affected stakeholders “to come up with new policies and rules to avoid circumvention of the laws” and to protect the farmers and cooperatives form exploitation.

Customs NAIA seizes $38,700 US Dollar bills hidden inside magazines

Robie de Guzman   •   November 17, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Customs (BOC) on Tuesday said its operatives at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) have intercepted a total of $38,700 US Dollar bills concealed between pages of magazines.

In a statement, the BOC said the bills were found hidden inside three packages in Fedex Warehouse.

The parcels, misdeclared as “documents,” arrived on Nov. 2. These were all sent by a certain Jacqueline Paas from the United States of America and are consigned to individuals from Poblacion, Muntinlupa City.

When subjected to 100% physical examination, the packages were found to contain the smuggled banknotes.

Just last week, the BOC NAIA similarly intercepted US$13,500 undeclared foreign currencies.

In sum, for the year 2020, the port issued Warrants of Seizure and Detention against various currencies with aggregate equivalent value of Php29,875,000.

“The seized foreign currencies shall be subjected to seizure and forfeiture proceedings in violation of Sections 1400 (Misdeclaration) and 1113 of R.A. No. 10863 (CMTA) in relation to the R.A. 7653 (New Central Bank Act) and BSP Foreign Exchange Transaction Manual,” the BOC said.

The bureau reminded the public that the BSP Manual of Foreign Exchange Transaction requires the faithful declaration and accomplishment of Foreign Currency Declaration Forms for importation and exportation of foreign currency in excess of USD10,000 or its equivalent.

Trust fund for college education of children from poor families eyed – DOF

Robie de Guzman   •   November 17, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Capital Market Development Council (CMDC) is studying the possibility of creating a child trust fund that would support the tertiary education of children from qualified poor families, the Department of Finance (DOF) said Tuesday.

The DOF said the proposal eyes sourcing the fund from the national and local government units’ contribution. The trust fund will be managed by financial institutions.

“The fund can also either be managed by the government and a part of it can also be cut out to be managed by the private sector,” said National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon, who also acts as treasurer of the CMDC.

“We are still on an exploratory stage and we would like to further do a more detailed or granular study on the CTF and to sell it to the Council in the coming meetings,” she added.

The proceeds from the child trust fund can also be used for daily allowances, transportation expenses, board and lodging and other miscellaneous expenses of public school students.

De Leon said the concept was adopted from the child trust funds implemented in the United Kingdom and Singapore.

In the UK, more than six million child trust fund tax-free accounts were set up to prepare for future educational expenses or for any other purpose that would benefit children born between Sept. 1, 2002 and Jan. 2, 2011.

An initial seed money of 250 or 500 British pounds per child was provided by the UK government and the accumulated amount can be withdrawn once the children reach 18 years of age.

Meanwhile, in Singapore, the government contributes a total of 4,000 Singapore dollars over ten schooling years of primary and secondary education of each child-beneficiary under its Edusave Scheme, which automatically covers all 7-year old Singaporeans.

With no withdrawal restrictions, the beneficiaries can take out money from their accounts even before their maturity, provided that they use the proceeds for educational purposes. The government closes each account and transfers the unused fund balance once the child-beneficiary reaches 16 years of age.

Aside from providing an education fund for poor families’ children, the child trust fund also aims to revive the “savings culture” in the country, according to Consuelo Garcia, Liaison Director for Capital Markets of FINEX.

“It is actually to be the missing link to what we have right now. The PERA (Personal Equity and Retirement Account (PERA) is for the working class. This one is for the young people. The baby boomers already got left behind so I think we could have this as a starting point,” she said.

De Leon noted that a survey done by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) in 2017 showed that around 18 percent of out-of-school youths have cited financial woes as their main hindrance to getting an education, despite a conditional cash transfer program being implemented by the government.

She said the CTF will provide a solution to one of the hindrances to the country’s commitments to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), of which the fourth one is Quality Education.

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