President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has designated Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales as the chief of the newly reorganized task force that will combat smuggling in the country.
The President also tapped the Armed Forces, Philippine National Police, National Bureau of Investigation, Coast Guard, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), National Prosecution Service, Philippine Ports Authority and National Intelligence Coordinating Agency as members of the task force.
President Arroyo issued the order by way of Executive Order 509, reorganizing the task force, which was created two years ago through EO 385.
“The elimination of smuggling and other acts contrary to customs laws remains among the top priorities of the government as such acts deprive the government of much-needed revenues and unfairly compete with legitimate businesses,” the President stated in EO 509. “The Commissioner of Customs is hereby designated head of the Task Force on Anti-Smuggling.”
The task force revival followed the arrest of suspected big-time smuggler Samuel Lee and the raid at 168 Mall in Binondo where smuggled merchandise from China, Taiwan and Korea are openly displayed and sold.
Lee was arrested upon his arrival from Hong Kong on March 5. He was accused of smuggling three containers of resins, a raw material for plastic products such as monobloc chairs and tables, at the Port of Manila on March 3.
The 168 raid, on the other hand, was conducted after officials and members of the Retailers Association of the Philippines filed a complaint informing the agency that the two-year-old, three-story establishment is engaged in unfair trade practice.
The Federation of Philippine Industries also deplored the unabated entry of smuggled goods, mostly from China, to the detriment of local producers and retailers.
Lee’s arrest was the biggest operation and achievement made by the CIDG against smuggling while the 168 raid was the biggest conducted by Customs men in the agency’s history. At least 500 Customs agents raided the 168 complex.
Customs officials said an estimated P120 billion in duties and taxes are lost yearly to technical smuggling, or misdeclaration and undervaluation of shipments.
Customs legal service chief Reynaldo Umali, who supervises the bureau’s Run After The Smugglers (RATS) program, said the agency is now preparing to move in on individuals involved in technical smuggling.
The bureau is building up its cases against suspected big-time smugglers.
Morales said some of the names were mentioned by senators during a budget hearing..
The bureau is also investigating the involvement of certain Customs personnel in technical smuggling.