“Smugglers are now using balikbayan boxes” – BoC Commissioner Lapeña

By Benjie Lim Vergara

(File photo) Bureau of Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña Photo © news.mb.com.ph

THE Bureau of Customs on Tuesday vowed to intensify its battle against smugglers, especially those who betray the implicit trust of the nation’s expatriates by using the balikbayan boxes in their nefarious activities.

Noting that despite government warnings against smuggling, BoC Commission Isidro Lapeña said there are still those who disrespect and disregard Customs laws, rules and regulation, and worse they take advantage and abuse the use of balikbayan boxes.

“Balikbayan boxes are sacred to our OFWs. I urge these unscrupulous importers not to use it to disguise their regulated and taxable importations,” Lapeña pleaded.

Lapeña’s issued the plea after disclosing that the bureau foiled an attempt to smuggle via the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, and seized some PhP40 million worth of banned beauty products, skimming devices used in criminal activities and China made shoes using balikbayan boxes.

The intercepted shipment comprised of 12 balikbayan boxes of beauty products, 15 boxes of containing pairs of expensive but China-made rubber shoes.

Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Image © http://www.publicdomainpictures.net

Customs District III Collector Carmelita Talusan said that the 6,500 pieces of beauty products, which has an estimated value of PhP 38 million, came from Abu Dhabi and contain Goree Day and Night Whitening Cream, Goree Beauty Cream, Goree Lotion, soaps, make up kits and Glutathione products, all of which are banned in the country due to the dangers they posed to public health.

The Philippine Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), in October 30, 2017, has released a public advisory prohibiting the use and distribution of Goree products, which were found toxic due to the presence of mercury in levels beyond the 1 parts per million limit set by the regulatory administration.

At present, Customs authorities are coordinating with the FDA for the plans of action to further curb the importation of Goree products in the Philippine market.

Furthermore, Lapeña said the BoC has it intercepted more than 1,110 skimming devices in NAIA’s three terminals in the last seven months.

Moreover, Lapeña said the gadgets come in sets, mostly containing one-time password card (OTP), sim cards, bank cards, mobile phones, rubber stamps, ATM pins, and other Chinese-scribed documents. However, he added, there was no estimated value of the OTP and skimming devices.

“These set of gadgets are used in committing cyber crimes and other bank frauds using online bank transactions. It can steal and clone the data which often results to money laundering by transferring money online thru bank to bank transactions,” Lapeña said.

He also said that a total of 13 apprehensions have been recorded from December 16, 2017 to June 1, 2018 where passengers coming from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Indonesia are smuggling skimming devices.

Image © bilyonaryo.com.ph

The Customs chief also said the seized 15 balikbayan boxes contain 111 pairs of original but China-made assorted rubber shoes were shipped from Italy and has an estimated market value of PhP7 million. It is consigned to Associated Freight Consolidations, the same consignee of Goree products.

Lapeña said all of the seized items were discovered by the Customs examiners after it passed through x-ray machines. He added that the contraband will undergo seizure and forfeiture proceedings in accordance with Section 400, 1113, and 1117 of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.

“Some of the seized goods will be destroyed especially the cosmetic products while others will be subjected for donation or auction,” Lapeña added.

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