TOP officials of the Bureau of Customs (BoC) headed by Comm. Nicanor Faeldon and his deputy commissioner for management and information technology (MISTG) continue to remain silent on why the trading company behind the shipment of some 605 kilos of shabu worth over P6 billion busted by authorities last week was granted the ‘Green Lane’ privilege that exempted the shipment from any physical or documentary examination.
Despite efforts by this writer to elicit a comment, Faeldon and his chief of staff, Atty. Mandy Anderson, also the bureau’s spokesperson, declined and instead asked customs intelligence service director, Neil Estrella, to answer queries from the media.
Similarly, MISTG deputy commissioner, Gerardo Gambala and the head of the ‘Risk Management Office’ (RMO), Atty. Larribert Hilario, also declined to be interviewed on the issue.
Gambala, who is also head of the bureau’s centralized alerting office, the ‘ComCen’ (Command Center), with the assistance from Hilario, is “directly responsible,” sources pointed out, on what shipment or consignee, would be given the ‘Green Lane’ or “express lane” privilege under the bureau’s ‘Selectivity’ program.
Under the system, shipments tagged as ‘Green’ are released immediately to the consignee while those tagged ‘Yellow’ would have at least ‘documentary’ examination prior to their release.
Those tagged by the ComCen as ‘Red’ would have to undergo the rigors of physical and documentary examination.
First implemented in the first phase of the bureau’s computerization program during the Ramos administration in the ’90s, the green lane privilege was only accorded to big corporations and multinational companies and those with good name and reputation to protect in the business community. Overall, the Selectivity System is also designed to speed up the release of shipments and avoid congestion at the container yards.
But according to sources, the consignee of the shabu shipment, ‘EMT Trading,’ with office address at the FEMII Building in Intramuros, Manila, has a “dubious record” as an importer specializing on ‘general merchandise’ whose tax payments also raised eyebrows at the waterfront.
The shipping document furnished this writer showed that the shabu shipment, loaded in 1X40-footer van, was declared as “cutting board, footwear, kitchenware” and “mould” and only paid P40,033 in duties and taxes when its consumption entry was filed at the Manila International Container Port (MICP) last May 17.
Sources expressed wonder why despite the trading company’s alleged failure to meet the “parameters” for the Green Lane category and the fact that all its shipments are coming from China which is considered a ‘high-risk country’ for smuggled goods, it still managed to get the express lane privilege.
“Could it be that because the person behind this company has long been known as a “major player” at the waterfront with alleged direct access to top customs officials?” they asked.
Sources at the waterfront are rife with the name of a certain ‘Taguba’ as the owner of the trading company.
Estrella said on May 24, they received “intelligence information” from their counterparts in China that a consignment of shabu reached the Philippines or just a day after the shipment was released from the MICP.
He said after validating the information, they conducted a “stakeout” at the company’s warehouse in Valenzuela City where, together with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), they uncovered the shabu shipment totaling 605 kilos on Friday, May 26.
Estrella also confirmed that prior to last Friday’s apprehension, EMT Trading also managed to release three previous shipments from the MICP from China that were also tagged ‘Green’ by the ComCen.