Davao Don Quixote battles ‘mafia’
The June 4 special report titled “Problems in Customs weaken drive vs smuggling,” by Michelle V. Remo, speaks volumes about the agency’s ineptness. While President Aquino, a month ago, hailed in downtown Davao agriculture czar Proceso Alcala for his performance in bringing back rice production to new heights, in Sasa wharf a tell-tale sign lay in mute testimony as to why Customs is still “tops” among nonperforming agencies of the country: a P260-million X-ray machine lying useless—a waste of taxpayer money! Nearby, a mobile X-ray machine, supposedly to scan container vans, also sat idle—with nobody operating it.
A businessman, Rodolfo “Popong” Reta, is waging a lonely fight against what he calls the entrenched “mafia” in Customs. In 2009, Reta was awarded a 25-year contract, through a memorandum of agreement with the Bureau of Customs, to operate an X-ray machine to scan cargo inside a designated examination area within the Customs Yard Outside Customs Zone.
After just three months, Reta reported an attempt to smuggle 40 container vans of imported rice misdeclared as construction materials that were already cleared by the Davao Customs. Instead of being commended, Reta’s contract was rescinded. Reta’s case is now in the courts and the costly X-ray machine lying inutile. Davaoeños fear that this situation has contributed to continued smuggling in the Sasa port.
Davao’s port is the principal domestic and international port for both passengers and cargo and is the most active port in Southern Mindanao, according to the Philippine Ports Authority website.
The PPA considers Davao as the most progressive conduit of trade and tourism in Southern Philippines and the largest market of the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area. According to the latest summary of cargo statistics covering January to March 2011, the wharf serviced more than 1.2 million metric tons of cargo.
—TOM S. VILLARIN, student,
Asian Institute of Management,
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