DUMAGUETE CITY – If smuggled goods like luxury cars are being destroyed by the government with much hoopla, then why not do the same to ships that knowingly transport contraband from abroad like that ship carrying smuggled rice?
Ships that wittingly carry smuggled goods—such as rice—in large quantities should be seized and confiscated, and if allowed by law, “destroyed, sank, be made into artificial reefs,” Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said.
That would be the strongest deterrent to the illegal importation of farm products, which harm the livelihood of millions of farmers, Recto said.
He, however, clarified that he was not proposing that every ship caught smuggling cargo “suffer the fate of destruction”, but only those which were contracted to transport only one kind of smuggled item whose contraband nature is known to the crew.
“Hindi naman isang container lang ng bigas ay automatic na gigibain na yung barko. Pero kung ang buong barko ay kinontrata para mag-smuggle ng bigas o langis, at kasabwat ang crew at may-ari, ganyang klaseng mga barko ang dapat hatulan ng kamatayan,” Recto said.
“Kung carrier in good faith, at pati sila naloko din, huwag dapat parusahan. But if the ship is in conspiracy with the shipper, and participates in its clandestine unloading, and navigates in a manner that eludes detection, then the ship is an active participant in a crime,” he explained.
After a Mongolia-flagged ship was caught unloading 8,000 sacks of rice off the coast of Zamboanga, Recto renewed his call for tougher measures against smuggling.
“Siguro panahon na para mag-sample ang pamahalaan ng isang pasaway na barko upang hindi tularan ng ibang may balak na magpuslit ng mga iligal na produkto,” Recto said.
Forfeiture of vessels are allowed under Philippine law, Recto explained, citing Section 1113 (a) of R.A. No. 10863, otherwise known as the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.
If not destroyed, confiscated ships can be repurposed, Recto added.
“Pwedeng gawing training ship. Pwedeng gawing carrier of relief goods to calamity areas. Pwedeng research ship sa Benham Rise,” Recto said.
Agriculture watchdog Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura said that around P200 billion in farm products were smuggled into the country in the last five years, causing government to lose P60 billion to P80 billion in revenues.
Smuggled oil, on the other hand, deprived government of about P27 billion in taxes and duties in 2016, according to an estimate by the Finance department.