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CAVITE, Philippines – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said on Friday, September 22, that he wants to “reduce” the grace time given to importers to prove that their suspected smuggled shipments are legal.
Marcos said this before a crowd in General Trias, Cavite, where he was to distribute smuggled rice seized by the Bureau to Customs.
The President was explaining that it took time for the rice to be transferred from the BOD to the Department of Social Welfare and Development because of a provision in the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) that gives suspected smugglers 15 days to appeal and question the bureau’s order.
“Kaya nag-antay lang kami dahil bago mo huhulihin, nasa batas…kailangan patunayan within 15 days na legal ‘yung kanilang inimport (import). Kaya’t medyo natagalan dahil inantay pa natin ‘yung 15 days,” said Marcos.
(We have to wait because before you seize items, it’s in the law that the importer has 15 days to prove that the importation is legal. So it took a while because we had to wait for 15 days.)
Under Section 114 of the CMTA, “Any party adversely affected by a decision or omission of the Bureau pertaining to an importation, exportation, or any other legal claim shall have the right to appeal within fifteen (15) days from receipt of the questioned decision or order.”
But Marcos, without going into detail, said 15 days was too long. “At sinusubukan natin ngayon bawasan ‘yung 15 days into seven days. Dahil kung legal ka na importer, hawak mo lahat ng dokumento. ‘Pag hinanap sa iyo ‘yan, bibigay ‘nyo kaagad. So, bakit pa 15 days?” he said.
“Sabi ko, baka kung anong mangyari diyan, mailulusot pa nila ‘yan. Kaya’t sabi ko, gawin natin ang lahat para makuha na ng pamahalaan, makuha na ng Bureau of Customs,” he added.
(We are trying to cut that down to seven days. Because if you’re a legal importer, all your documents are with you. If it’s asked of you, you should be able to give it right away. So why wait 15 days? I said they might find a way out. So I said, let’s do everything so that the government, the Bureau of Customs can seize it.)
The concurrent agriculture chief did not say explicitly if he would ask Congress to amend the law. Malacañang has yet to respond to inquiries from media.
In the same event, Marcos attributed the rise in rice prices to “hoarders.” He claimed that rice hoarding forced him to intervene in the market by placing price caps of P41 per kilo for regular milled rice, and P45 per kilo for well-milled rice beginning September 5.
In early July, Marcos ordered a probe into an alleged onion cartel and the smuggling of agriculture goods. Months later, no charges have been filed against individuals supposedly involved in these practices, even if the order was based on recommendations of a congressional ally who released names supposedly associated with the alleged cartel.
The President recently certified as urgent Senate Bill No. 2432 seeking to define and impose stiffer sanctions on agricultural economic sabotage.
Marcos has chosen to remain as agriculture chief despite both allies and critics calling on him to appoint a full-time department secretary. – Rappler.com