Villar wants all illegal ports here destroyed PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 25 February 2015 12:04

Senator Cynthia Villar, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, has asked the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) to destroy all illegal ports in Zamboanga City as she attributed the rampant smuggling activities here to the operation of too many ports/wharves on the shorelines of this city.

Sen. Villar yesterday told the senate inquiry conducted by her committee in aid of legislation on the reported rampant smuggling of agricultural products in Zamboanga City that the operation of too many ports in the city is one of the reasons for smuggling to thrive in this part of the country.

Congressman Celso Lobregat told the body that during his term as city mayor a task force was formed to survey all the ports/wharves on the shorelines of the city and it was found out that there were 90 ports in operation, most of them were illegal or unlicensed by the PPA.

“These ports are being used for unloading of smuggled goods. If you cannot supervise and make sure they are not used for illegal activities then they should be destroyed,” Villar told PPA official, adding that the number of ports in the city should be rationalized.

This, after Customs Commissioner John Philip Sevilla manifested that by law all international shipments are only supposed to go to a designated international port, and in the case of this region the international port is only in Zamboanga City, the one being managed by the PPA.

“Other than the PPA Port of Zamboanga, all the rest are illegal ports if we strictly follow the law,” Sevilla said.

Villar also suggested for the Bureau of Customs (BoC) to designate at least one port where only agricultural products can be loaded and unloaded for easy and effective monitoring.

The fight against smuggling in Zamboanga, the senator suggested, must also take into consideration the ports in other provinces like Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi by establishing stronger coordination among agencies concerned.

Villar strongly recommended to the BoC to file the necessary charges in court against Customs personnel involved in smuggling activities, otherwise she said the smugglers will become bolder in their illegal activities.

She also asked the local government unit and the national agencies concerned to create a special anti-smuggling task force to effectively monitor and stop smuggling in the city.

The senate inquiry on smuggling was an offshoot of a resolution by the City Council asking Pres. Aquino and the congress to look into the rampant smuggling activities in the city.

This, after the alleged disappearance of about P20 million worth of smuggled rice and sugar while being transported to the supposed warehouse after their apprehension last month.

Meanwhile, Villar has commended the Philippine Navy for being a natural allay in the campaign against smuggling, especially for its accomplishments in anti-smuggling operation.

The Naval Forces Western Mindanao reported that in 2013 it apprehended 24 watercrafts loaded with P91.1 million worth of smuggled goods that included 115,450 sacks of rice at 25kg/sack, 9,800 sacks of 50kg/sack of rice, 1,480 boxes of cooking oil, 900 sacks of sugar, 800 sacks of flour and 20 pcs water tank.

In 2014, it carried out the oppression of 77 watercrafts loaded with 324,226 sacks of 25kg/sack of rice, 6,000 sacks of 50kg/sack of rice, 8,500 and 1,500 sacks of garlic at 10kg/sack and 20kg/sack, respectively; 1,200 boxes of cooking oil, 330 boxes of noodles and other assorted good with estimated market value of P294.1 million.

The Navy also apprehended just the other day 4 watercrafts with 131,00 sacks of 25kg/sack of rice,  7 M14 rifles, 3 M16 rifles (2 with M203 grenade launchers) in the sea off Maimbung, Sulu.

Also present during the inquiry were Mayor Beng Climaco, Vice Mayor Cesar Iturralde, some members of the City Council, heads of various agencies and Congresswoman Lilia Nuno, among many others.

After the inquiry, Villar led an inspection of the PPA Port. — Vic Larato