MANILA Senator Ralph Recto on Tuesday proposed that every ship caught smuggling cargo into the Philippines "suffer the fate of destruction" as he renewed his call for tougher measures against smuggling.
Recto made the call after a Mongolian-flagged ship was caught unloading 8,000 sacks of Vietnamese rice off the coast of Zamboanga.
Ships that wittingly carry smuggled goods, such as rice, in large quantities should be seized and confiscated, and if allowed by law, destroyed, sank, be made into artificial reefs," he said in a statement.
Recto, who is Senate President Pro Tempore, said that if smuggled goods like luxury cars are being destroyed by the government with much hoopla, then the same should also be done to ships that transport contraband from abroad.
That would be the strongest deterrent to the illegal importation of farm products, which harm the livelihood of millions of farmers, the senator said.
Agriculture watchdog Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura said that about PHP200 billion in farm products were smuggled into the country in the last five years, causing government to lose PHP60 billion to PHP80 billion in revenues.
On the other hand, smuggled oil deprived government of about PHP27 billion in taxes and duties in 2016, according to an estimate by the Department of Finance.
Recto, however, clarified that he was not proposing that every ship caught smuggling cargo be destroyed, but only those that were contracted to transport only one kind of smuggled item, whose nature as contraband, is known to the crew.
"If the carrier has good faith and was also fooled, they should not be punished. But if the ship is in conspiracy with the shipper, and participates in its clandestine unloading, and navigates in a manner that eludes detection, then the ship is an active participant in a crime," he said.
Recto said that forfeiture of vessels are allowed under Philippine law, citing Section 1113 (a) of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, adding that if confiscated ships are not allowed to be destroyed, then they can still be repurposed.
"They can be used as a training ship, a carrier of relief goods to calamity areas or a research ship in Benham Rise," Recto said.
Source: Philippine News Agency