Consumer watchdog United Filipino Consumers and Commuters wants the Bureau of Customs to release a list of cement smugglers, saying these illicit traders do not only rob the government of millions in revenue but also endanger the lives of Filipinos. STAR/File photo
MANILA, Philippines – After alleged drug personalities, consumer watchdog United Filipino Consumers and Commuters (UFCC) now wants government to name and shame smugglers.
The group in particular wants the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to release a list of cement smugglers, saying these illicit traders do not only rob the government of millions in revenue but also endanger the lives of Filipinos.
UFCC said total under-declaration of imported cement from January to April this year alone has reached over P200 million.
“If President Duterte did it with drug lords in government, Nic Faeldon of the Bureau of Customs should do it with smugglers as well,” UFCC president Rodolfo Javellana Jr. said.
Javellana said his group wants the BOC to bare information on cement traders that are misrepresenting freight rates to lower import fees for thousands of tons of cement being shipped into the Philippines monthly.
“We have evidence that shows that in the first half of 2016 alone, about 30 cement traders have technically smuggled over 50 thousand metric tons of cement into the country. We are turning this evidence over to the BOC, and we hope Commissioner Faeldon will take swift action against these groups,” he said.
Business ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1
According to the group, more than 90 percent of illegal imports found in the first half of the year came from Vietnam.
“These traders are bringing in imported cement at an average freight rate of only $6.38 per metric ton, which is almost $17 lower than the standard freight rate of about $23 per metric ton,” Javellana said.
“Looking at an audit of 78,000 metric tons of imported cement and current cement importation trends, we are looking at an under declaration of just over P200 million from January to April of this year alone,” he added.
The Cement Manufacturers Association of the Philippines, for its part, estimated that about 75 percent of the 161,000 metric tons of imported cement that went into the country in the first quarter of the year were technically smuggled.
UFCC said the issue is alarming given the substantial growth of the country’s cement imports in the past few years.
“Smuggling makes it easier for substandard products to enter the country. This is dangerous when it comes to construction materials such as cement, since they can cause road or building failure,” Javellana said.
“More stringent measures by Customs can prevent poor-quality products from entering the market. We urge Commissioner Faeldon to investigate the contents of our list not only to go after lost revenues but also to protect public safety,” he added.