I have spent a significant part of my life fighting against smuggling in the country, which has killed and still killing Philippine industries and depriving the government billions of pesos in uncollected duties and taxes. I was happy to receive the invitation of Albay second District Representative and House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Joey Salceda asking me to attend the House hearing about the unabated smuggling in the country. I saw this as a great opportunity for me to express my thoughts, concerns and reservations on the way smuggling, a national scourge that is robbing the government of over P 250 billion in value added taxes alone each year, is being addressed by those concerned.
For giving me such an opportunity, I would like to thank Congressman Salceda, who heeded my suggestion to the Committee to allow me to participate in the hearing, which will give me a chance to share my inputs on smuggling. My staff’s call to the Committee on the matter was favorably considered by Congressman Salceda.
On Sunday, January 29, 2023, when I checked my e-mails, I saw the Committee’s invitation for me to attend the January 30, 2023 House hearing on smuggling.
Indeed, smuggling has likewise evolved with the times. Unlike the old practice when illegally imported goods were being unloaded at night under the cover of darkness along the nation’s vast coastline, smuggling today is happening right at the doorsteps of the Bureau of Customs. But like diving into a mares nest, fighting smuggling is a most challenging, frustrating, disappointing advocacy. You don’t know who are your allies. In fact, an ally in the anti-smuggling campaign can become your enemy when “befriended” by people with co-optive powers. Customs officials, sad to say, are no exemption. As they say in Filipino, “Sa Customs pag gusto, maraming paraan. Pag ayaw, maraming dahilan” (At Customs, if they want it done, they find ways to allow it. If they don’t like it, they have reasons to deny it). Of course, this does not apply to BOC officials and employees who serve ethically and with integrity. As they say in Spanish, puera de los buenos.
Thus, I welcomed the opportunity to share my thoughts about smuggling with the members of the House Ways and Means Committee. The thought alone of being invited to the House Hearing made me feel enthusiastic. An unexpected news, however, doused my excitement in the early morning of January 30, 2023. Waking up very early to pick up at the office the documents I would need for the House hearing, I was already in my car when I got a call at six o’clock in the morning informing me that the scheduled House Committee on Ways and Means hearing on smuggling was cancelled by Chairman Salceda.
There must have been something really urgent for the Congressman to cancel such an important hearing with too short of notice. Whatever the reason is, I hope it’s more important than the information I intend to reveal, which will hopely enlighten the Committee members on why smuggling continues despite government efforts to stop it.
I hope everything is fine with Congressman Salceda. I am still hoping that I will be given an opportunity to share with the members of the House Committee on Ways and Means my experiences about fighting smuggling, and how we at the Federation of Philippine Industries can help solve the crime of smuggling, which is killing Philippine industries and depriving the government billions of pesos in uncollected revenues.
Dr. Jesus Lim Arranza is the chairman of the Federation of Philippine Industries and Fight Illicit Trade; a broad-based, multisectoral movement intended to protect consumers, safeguard government revenues and shield legitimate industries from the ill effects of smuggling.