Abono's smuggling claim 'inaccurate' - biz group

MANILA, Philippines - The Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI), a group that represents steel, textile, palm oil and paper manufacturers, debunked allegations made by partylist group Abono that billions of pesos are lost to smuggling each year.

Abono Rep. Rosendo So earlier said that in 2012 alone, for example, the government lost about P32 billion due to the illegal importation of agricultural goods. "(Customs Secretary Ruffy) Biazon is single-handedly making the country the smuggling capital of Asia. He should resign if he has any shame left," So said.

Jesus Arranza, the president of FPI, said Abono's claim was "inaccurate, if not misleading."

“All products that enter the Philippines from other countries are not entirely considered importations, unless these are filed as consumption entries with the BOC upon its arrival and to be sold in the local market. Raw materials or semi-finished products that enter the country for use in the various Freeport zones and to be re-exported later are not considered importations. These importations should not be included in determining the extent of smuggling in the country,” he said.

Arranza urged leaders to refrain from "politicizing" the Bureau of Customs' (BOC) anti-smuggling campaign.

"The Bureau of Customs must be insulated and isolated from politicians for its anti-smuggling campaign to succeed."

Arranza said the BOC's inability to curb smuggling in the country is not entirely Biazon's fault. He added that politicians exert influence over Customs personnel, contributing to the problem.

"Biazon alone cannot stop smuggling, he needs the help and cooperation of everyone, especially the officials and employees of the BOC. Unfortunately, there are certain reforms in the BOC that cannot simply be implemented because of pressure from politicians," he said.

In a press briefing on April 11, Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang urged the public to give Biazon a chance to "clean up" the BOC. "Biazon is taking steps to improve the situation in Customs," Carandang said. - Christian Bautista/Rappler.com