“Big-time smugglers at hindi OFWs ang dapat tutukan ng BoC. Instead of bullying our modern-day heroes, it should exhaust more effort in catching the big fish who continue to evade justice.”
This was the sentiment expressed by Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano after filing his resolution asking for an inquiry into government policies that impose unwarranted additional burden to OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers).
He specifically recommended that Bureau of Customs (BoC) Commissioner Alberto Lina be invited to a scheduled Senate hearing regarding the agency’s earlier directive to randomly open migrant workers’ balikbayan boxes.
“The focus of Commissioner Lina is misplaced. Bakit pinag-iinitan ang balikbayan boxes ng ating OFWs, while the primary source of big-time smuggling in the country, ang mas malalaking container vans, ay hindi nababantayan nang mabuti?” the senator lamented.
“Bakit ang daming proposals kung paano hihigpitan at sisilipin ang laman ng balikbayan boxes, pero pagdating sa container vans, wala tayong naririnig?”
Cayetano said although he is one with government in its intensified campaign against smugglers and illegal importers, he said the Customs bureau is barking up the wrong tree by focusing on OFWs’ packages instead of the larger container vans, where large-scale smuggling is happening.
A study conducted by the Federation of Philippine Industries revealed that large-scale smuggling through the country’s ports has cost the Philippine government more than P1 trillion worth of foregone revenue form 2002-2011. This is far more alarming than the alleged P600 million losses attributed to the smuggling of goods through balikbayan boxes, Cayetano noted.
The senator clarified that balikbayan boxes may still be opened, but only if a pre-inspection would prove that something suspicious is hidden inside the boxes. And instead of randomly opening boxes, he urged the agency to maximize the use of X-ray machines and engage K-9 inspection units for better searches./Office of Senator Chiz Escudero