Statement of Rep. Robert Ace Barbers on the issue of P6.4B illegal drugs smuggled using Bureau of Customs Express Lane

The news reports and the social media buzz on the recent hearing of the House Committee on Ways in Means indicate a deliberate effort to distract public attention away from the real and pressing issues on the Bureau of Customs. Why?

The real issue here is that illegal drugs worth an estimated P6.4 billion have passed through the express lane of the Bureau of Customs, over which Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon and his chief of staff have direct supervision.

The House hearing was meant to find out the answer to the troubling question: How can billions of pesos worth of illegal drugs breeze through undetected in the express lane of the BOC? So far, We have not heard any satisfactory explanation from the BOC and we intend to dig deeper into this matter.

How thorough or lax was the screening process? Who are the people responsible? Who signed or approved the release of the illegal drug shipment?

It stands to reason that other large shipments of illegal drugs could have been smuggled undetected into the country in a similar manner and now being sold in the streets.

This is alarming. The chilling implication is that some Customs personnel, and even officers, could be in collusion with illegal drug syndicates with billions in their pockets to buy protection from corrupt officials.

We intend to pursue this matter further in the hearing of the Committee on Dangerous Drugs on Tuesday, August 1, 2017.

And illegal drugs are by no means the only contrabands that have been slipped through the Customs. We continue to hear complaints from businessmen and farmers about the unabated smuggling of agricultural products, including pork, chicken, onion and garlic.

Recently, the Department of Agriculture also found basis to indicate the smuggling of carrots. According to the research of Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) an estimated P200 billion worth of agricultural goods were smuggled into the country in the last five years.

The House of Representatives has worked hard to fast track the passage of the tax reform package to provide the government with much needed revenues to support crucial programs of the government, including its Build, Build, Build program.

However, the Bureau of Customs has failed to stop these smuggling activities and plug the loopholes that deprived the government of billions of pesos in revenues.

To date, it likewise came up short of its revenue target.

What is the leadership of the Bureau of Customs doing to address all these?

These are the real and substantive issues that merit discussion. Anything else is irrelevant and a vain attempt to muddle the issue about the massive smuggling happening at the very noses of the Customs officials.

Source: House of Representatives

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