Press Releases

Salceda bares transshipment scheme in tobacco smuggling; House tax chair says onion supply deficit ‘solvable’

January 24th, 2023

House Ways and Means Chair Joey Sarte Salceda (Albay, 2nd district) bared a scheme for smuggling of agricultural and sensitive imported products such as tobacco, during today’s hearing on House Resolution No. 311.

The House tax panel chair says that based on records he received from personal intelligence networks, he found that tobacco master cases that are due for seizure are instead being applied for transshipment permits with the Port of Subic and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority,

“What probably happens is that the shipment is declared for “transshipment” but actually leaks to the domestic market. That’s outright smuggling,” Salceda added.

Salceda said that “One Container Vans (CV) containing 1,038 master cases of illicit cigarettes with brand Modern with Pishon Corporation as consignee” are being applied for a transshipment permit

“We are alarmed that the goods were intended again for PISHON CORPORATION, the declared consignee, since the former has been involved in a previous case of misdeclared importation carrying 972 master cases of illicit cigarettes (Docket No. XVI-INV-22H-00325, filed 5 August 2022).”

The same Pishon Corporation was named by Rep. Horacio Suansing, one of the authors of HR 311, as a possible smuggler and is also to be called by the Committee for inquiry on its next hearing.

“Goods were declared for re-export with FINAL destination in Malaysia. Good for re-export should have re-export bond under customs and BIR regulations. It is likely that the 2 container vans were put on hold by BOC Subic and SBMA for not having a re-export bond. To avoid this issue, it appears that Pishon Corp is declaring that the goods are for transshipment.”

While Customs and Subic Port officials said they were not in possession of records on the matter, Salceda supplied them with a seizure order on the 972 master cases, and a bill of lading for 1 container van containing 1,038 master cases are being applied for a transshipment permit.

As for the 972 master cases apprehended, Customs officials said that Pishon Corporation denied that they are the consignee. Thousand Sunny Enterprises, also named in the Senate’s investigation on vegetable smuggling in 2021, is also suspected to be a consignee according to the BOC’s seizure order.

Salceda is requesting the BOC and the SBMA for “a guarantee that you will not approve a transshipment request from this corporation.”

Onion price issue “solvable”

Salceda also pointed out during the hearing that the onion price crisis “is very solvable.”

“The onion sector is high yielding, it seems, with some 14 tons per hectare in average production. Actually, when irrigated properly, it can produce up to 25 tons per hectare.”

“The country’s onion supply deficit is about 22.1% of total demand, or about 80,700 tons out of total demand of 363,000 tons. Just produce 5 more tons per hectare, or plant 5,700 hectares more of onion, and you’re essentially good. That’s just a bit over the size of the city of Caloocan City, and your entire onion self-sufficiency is addressed.”

Salceda suspects that “farmers were low-balled because their produce rots in 3 days after harvest, the supply was withheld from the market when the DA decided not to issue any new import clearances. And then the smugglers now both control importing as well as prices.”

“The price is very artificial. The domestic retail price of onions domestically is 17 times the cheapest price in Bangladesh and 4.5 times the world average.”

“Just give farmers cold storage so they don’t have to sell to cartellists, keep imports flowing in limited numbers that can undercut price bubbles, and you will see those prices fall very quickly.”

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