Press Releases

Salceda: Close Subic Port, amass import documents, and purge personnel is rampant smuggling persists

January 7th, 2023

House Ways and Means Chair Joey Sarte Salceda (Albay, 2nd district) says that “unless Subic Port cleans up its act, we should seriously consider just closing the whole thing down for now, embargoing the import documents, and purging personnel.”

The House tax chair made the statement in response to recent incidents of agricultural smuggling in the port. At least four seizures of smuggled agricultural products were made in Subic in December alone. Some 7000 MT of smuggled sugar was also intercepted in Subic in August. 

“The brazenness – it wouldn’t happen if the smugglers aren’t confident they have conspirators in the ports,” Salceda said.

Salceda adds that his committee’s investigations into tobacco and petroleum smuggling in March 2021, and on agricultural smuggling in April 2022 also pointed to Subic as a major conduit and hub for smuggling in the country.

“Even with petroleum smuggling, Subic always figures,” Salceda remarked.

Salceda adds that the committee’s investigation into abuse of customs bonded warehouses in June 2020 pointed to Subic Port as a frequent channel.

“Basically, it’s the motherlode of smuggling in the country. We hit Subic smuggling hard, and we will see improvements in the fight against smuggling.”

Salceda said that the House Committee on Ways and Means will focus its efforts on agricultural smuggling and non-payment of excise taxes on imported products. 

“Definitely, a clean sweep, a nuclear option for Subic Port, should be on the table.”

Salceda cited the “hardline approach” to Boracay rehabilitation as “what might be necessary to clean up Subic of the ecosystem of corruption.”

“It won’t be just a management change. Even an angel placed atop Subic Port’s management would struggle to rein in the corruption,” Salceda said.

Three points on customs enforcement

Salceda says that he expects a minimum of “three points” for customs enforcement during the first quarter of 2023.

First, Salceda says, he wants a task force of government lawyers to file strong cases of economic sabotage against key agricultural smugglers.

Second, Salceda believes that the Department of Finance should revitalize the “Run After The Smugglers” or RATS program.

Third, Salceda hopes that President Marcos will reinforce the creation of the government task force on economic intelligence through an Executive Order, or the agencies will issue a Joint Memorandum Circular on the matter.

“It’s the minimum the committee will expect of the customs enforcement agencies. Otherwise, nuclear options such as closing down smuggling havens will continue to be on the table.”

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