This has reference to Neal H. Cruz’s Jan. 16 column titled “Sugar being smuggled through Cebu port.”
It appears that the Cebu port is being used by smugglers as an entry point for smuggling, in connivance with registered companies located in the Mactan Export Processing Zone Authority (Mepza).
Imported materials addressed to Peza (Philippine Export Zone Authority)-registered companies are exempted from scrutiny or inspection by the Bureau of Customs when they come into the Customs territory. Inspection is made only inside the facility or compound of the concerned Peza company.
There is grave abuse of this privilege given to Peza-registered companies, and it seems the Peza itself has turned a blind eye to technical smuggling, thereby thwarting President Aquino’s “daang matuwid” policy.
In a seminar in Nagoya, Japan, in September 2008, which was promoted by prestigious business groups, including the Japan International Cooperation Agency, the delegates brought up the subject of unstoppable smuggling in the Philippines through ecozones under Peza. Imported goods, primarily garments (finished products known in the Filipino lingo as ukay-ukay) are shipped to the Philippines from various ports of origin in large volumes, secured in container vans. Once in the Philippines, these goods flood the local market.
This unrestrained graft and corruption via ecozones apparently never bother Peza authorities even though its own officials and employees are direct participants in the commission of a crime that has brought this country to shame and mockery in intracountry and regional conferences, where the Philippines has been dubbed as a smuggling hub. Graft and corruption in Peza continues unabated up to now in the form of smuggling of goods purportedly imported for companies located inside the various ecozones.
Peza needs a strong hand to stop the smuggling activities committed under the very noses (if not with their connivance) of its authorities. Smugglers are determined robbers and thieves. They have to be contained with equivalent cunning and force.
—MARIANO D. CASTRO,