Garlic trader, customs broker face smuggling raps

 

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Customs filed before the Department of Justice on Thursday, July 10, smuggling charges against a trader and a customs broker for allegedly importing contraband garlic worth P30 million.

This comes amid skyrocketing prices of garlic in the market.

Customs filed a complaint against Aiza Salise, owner of Good Earth Merchandise in Cagayan de Oro City, and Antonio Castro Enriquez, a licensed customs broker. They were charged for violating Presidential Decree No. 1433, which requires importers of garlic and other commodities to secure permit or clearance from the Bureau of Plant Industry. The two were also charged for violating Section 3601 of the Tariff and Customs Code for illegal importation.

In June, operatives seized 4 40-footer container vans with 101,460 kilograms of garlic smuggled from Hong Kong at the Port of Batangas. In a statement, the Department of Finance (DOF) said the shipment from Hong Kong was declared as “raw materials for chocolate.”

“As the garlic was misdeclared, the shipment had no phytosanitary clearance as mandated by the Department of Agriculture for imported prouducts,” DOF said.

It also pointed out that the importer and its broker “neither declared nor paide the correct duties and taxes for the shipments.”

The container vans will undergo forfeiture proceedings in favor of the government. If cleared of phytosanitary threats, the government will sell the seized garlic in the local market to help temper rising prices.

According to the Department of Agriculture, the garlic prices increased by around 213% in the first quarter of 2014.

The abrupt increase was said to have been caused by traders who choose to import rather than buy local farmers’ produce. Retail prices reached as high as P300 to P400 per kilo.

The DA is investigating the rise in prices despite sufficient supply. Around 30% of the country’s garlic requirement is produced locally, while 70% is imported.

Imported garlic prices went as high as P290 per kilogram, while local garlic is now at P180 per kg in supermarkets and major trading centers in Metro Manila. – Mick Basa/Rappler.com