CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Despite the series of confiscation of millions worth of red onions coming in as illegal imported agricultural produce at the Mindanao Container Terminal sub-port in Tagoloan town in Misamis Oriental, the smuggling of red onions has continued.
The Bureau of Customs-10 (BOC-10) on Friday, October 29, disclosed it raided a warehouse in Barangay Puntod here where local and imported agricultural items have been stored.
Oliver Valiente, chief of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS) Cagayan de Oro field office, said the raid was carried out on October 22 following the letter of authority issued by Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero.
The letter of authority has the same power as the search warrant and that it can be implemented anywhere in the country.
Valiente said they can invoke the letter of authority in the conduct of raid in stores and warehouses to make sure that proper taxes are paid in the import of products.
Houses are outside the jurisdiction of the letter of authority.
With the CIIS were personnel from the Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine National Police and village officials.
“We did a test-buy based on the information that we received, and true enough, we were able to confirm the presence of imported red onions that were imported without the necessary permits,” he said.
Valiente placed the market value of the onions at P5 million.
Also found at the warehouse were sacks of garlic, mung beans and carrots.
“The agricultural products shall be subject to seizure and forfeiture proceedings under Section 224 of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act if the necessary import documents are not presented within 15 days,” Valiente said.
He added the Department of Agriculture (DA) verified that it did not issue an importation permit for the red onions, hence, it’s considered to be smuggled goods and will be recommended for the issuance of a warrant of seizure and detention.
Lawyer Elvira Cruz, BOC-10 district collector, vowed to continue vigilance against smuggled products within its area of responsibility and send a strong signal to smugglers to stop their illicit activities.
For his part, Manuel Barradas, regional manager of the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Plant Industry and Plant Quarantine Services (DA-BPI-PQS) in Northern Mindanao, said strong enforcement measures must be taken by both BOC and his office to ensure that no illegal agricultural commodities could slip through the country.
“In our recent meeting, BOC has assured us that they will coordinate with us in their anti-smuggling operations, and we have also given our commitment to them,” he said.
Barradas said the government has not allowed any importation of onions since there is still an abundance of this vegetable from growers in Nueva Ecija, Mindoro and some parts of Iloilo.
“We have sufficient supply of red onions. If we lack supply, then it’s time for us to import. But as of now, there is no need,” he said in telephone interview Friday afternoon, October 19.
In the event importation of agricultural products is allowed, Barradas said the importers have to secure sanitary and phytosanitary import clearance from the BPI to ensure that these are safe for human consumption.
Smuggled produce which are confiscated, he added, have to either be burned or buried, reshipped back to their country of origin or be re-exported to other countries.
Barradas said that imported agricultural commodities that enter the country illegally must not be sold in the local market as these did not go through stringent examination.
“We don’t advise auctioning or selling these illegal products because they might not be safe for consumption,” he said.