Recto asks Aquino to sign Customs modernization bill
Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto urged President Aquino to sign into law the proposed “fear factor” Customs Modernization and Tariff Act pending on his desk that imposes heavier penalties on smuggling and computerizes all customs transactions.
Hog producers have been threatening to stage a “pork holiday” in protests of the smuggling of pork and hog parts, which according to them have amounted to P17 billion in foregone duties.
Recto said the bill imposes a longer imprisonment of up to a lifetime, and higher fines of up to P50 million for smugglers and their coddlers in government.
Section 1401 of CMTA slaps a minimum jail time of 31 days to six months or a fine of not less than P25,000 but not more than P75,000, or both, if the appraised value of the smuggled goods does not exceed P250,000.
If the value of smuggled items exceeds P200 million, guilty parties will be sentenced to life imprisonment on top of a fine of not less than P50M, Recto said.
Customs officials extorting from shippers or consignees would face a penalty of six years to 12 years imprisonment and fine of P500,000 to P1 million.
Additional penalties, Recto said, include forfeiture of all benefits due from service in government, perpetual disqualification to hold public office and from participating in any public election.
Recto said the enrolled bill provides that goods declaration shall be submitted electronically pursuant to the Electronic Commerce Act of 2000, which would hopefully ensure easy tracking of goods and empower concerned parties to red flag suspicious shipments.
Recto also backed the hog producers’ appeal that President Aquino sign into law a separate bill treating large-scale smuggling of farm products as economic sabotage.
“This and the CMTA are a one-two punch that can down smuggling,” he said.
This developed as Sen. Cynthia Villar, chairwoman of the Senate committee on agriculture and food, asked Customs and agriculture officials in a public hearing about the rampant meat and offal smuggling in the country.
Villar also urged the officials to destroy the rotting 3.9 million kilos of meat abandoned at the Manila port.