Press Releases

Salceda: House tax panel to pin down ‘Chinaman Mafia’ of agri smugglers in 2023

January 2nd, 2023

House Ways and Means Chair Joey Sarte Salceda (Albay, 2nd district) says the House tax panel will focus its oversight functions on “pinning down the supposed cabal of Chinese nationals and their associates who have syndicated a Mafia-like system of strangling the supply of imported agricultural products” in the country. They are well known as Chinaman Mafia

Salceda says that the tax committee has “Class A information from our various sources that this Mafia is in control of agricultural smuggling in the country, at every stage of the smuggling process, from transport to arrival to import permits and sanitary inspection.”

“Intelligence sources tell us that the main characters are Chinese, or their associates,” Salceda said.

“The tentacles are all over, but I am told that it is a small group, so if we can get to the core group, we should be able to pin the system down.”

Salceda pointed out that high profile seizures of smuggled goods come from China. These include onions seized in Alabang this November, and broccoli and carrots seized in Divisoria last April. 

Salceda also says that the House tax panel will appeal to the Marcos administration to strengthen the Sub-Task Group on Economic Intelligence (STG-EI) to conduct more seizures and arrests.

The group is composed of the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Bureau of Customs (BOC), National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), and Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG).

Salceda says that the Committee will investigate the process “from top to bottom, and from end to end.”

“They have people in the ships, the ports, the inspections, the quarantines, the warehouses, and the economic zones. It’s very pervasive.”

“Based on initial reports, it seems that they took stronger hold of our processes starting 2018, during a period of high food inflation. Rice tariffication helped undercut their control significantly in the rice trade sector. But with high non-tariff barriers in other areas, specially in the issuance of sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances and other administrative requirements, the system is susceptible to abuse and capture.”

Salceda says the committee will also work with third-parties that have audited the country’s import systems to introduce more transparency.

“Sunlight is the best disinfectant, so a system that is publicly available, and allows us to monitor major shipments in real time should help curtail smuggling and abuse of the imports processes.”

Salceda adds that an interface that matches import permits, arrivals, and import clearances, and flags discrepancies immediately towards more law enforcement agencies “is also a safeguard against abuse by a captured agency.”

“We are studying how process and rules changes can fight agricultural smuggling. That’s part of our policymaking function. But we hope to pin down the Agri Smuggling Mafia so that we can close the opportunities for their ways,” Salceda concluded.

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