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Anti-Smuggling in Bohol Philippines
« on: December 14, 2009, 12:02:30 PM »
By Bohol Chronicle

Businessmen in the province are criticizing the disruption and delays in the release of their cargos caused by a group claiming to be agents of the Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group (PASG).

The Bohol Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) on Friday expressed "grave concern" over the delays in transporting basic goods and commodities after a team of the PASG assigned in the province started to intercept last Wednesday the passage of cargo vans and trucks at the Tagbilaran City Port.

DTI Secretary Peter Favila, who arrived here Friday vowed to take action on the matter based on the resolution of the BCCI.

A resolution adopted by the business group decried the manner by which the anti-smuggling operatives, headed by Jose Rommel Manhilot conducted inspections of trucks and delivery vehicles carrying goods and commodities which resulted into hours of delay.

The businessmen's group came after the group continued to check all cargoes coming out from the pier until yesterday. In fact, some of the men could not present identification cards.

Manhilot who is the younger brother of gubernatorial bet, movie actor/director Cesar Montano said that one of his men checking cargoes at the port is another brother he identified as Noel.

The chamber said that the "unannounced interception" conducted by Manhilot and his designated men, "resulted to the interruption of the normal flow of the delivery of basic commodities to the consuming public".
         

The PASG team led by Manhilot, popularly known as Rommel Montano flagged down trucks at the city wharf purportedly to check for smuggled goods.

The BCCI protested the "inspections" saying it is an inconvenience to both the business community and the consumer sector.

PPA Port Manager
Manny Boholano told the Chronicle the team paid courtesy call at is office while expressing surprise why such inspection be conducted when there was no intelligence report taken as the basis that smuggled goods are entering through the city port.

The port manager warned the team that if an unexplained delay will affect the release of cargoes, the consigness might even charge the storage fees to their team once their cargoes get stuck at the city port due to their operations.

"This is the first time that the city and the province have experienced this setback which creates anxiety, confusion and negative impression on concerned businessmen," the chamber resolution stated.

In an emergency meeting called by the BCCI last Thursday at the Metrocentre Hotel, PPA Manager Boholano informed the businessmen that it is only when there is an intelligence report of smuggling could there be an interception of cargo transport operations.

During the four-day conduct of inspections, the flow of cargo trucks at the port slowed down as PASG operatives sorted through each vehicle and asked for official receipts of goods.

According to the BCCI, it has always been the practice "since time immemorial" that delivery drivers and truckers can only present the "bill of lading" because the official receipts are in the company offices, usually based in Manila and Cebu.

Some drivers, reporting the delay to their employers, hinted suspicions on the conduct of the inspections.

Businessmen who refused to be identified told the Chronicle that Manhilot and the other men claiming to be agents of PASG should present proper identification and deputization papers as some members of the business sector are concerned they might end up victims of extortion from men claiming to be anti-smuggling agents.

They said the PASG central office should provide the BCCI or the provincial government of a list of their deputized operatives to eliminate doubts regarding their identities.

ROMMEL'S STATEMENT

Interviewed over top-rated radio program "Inyong Alagad" of Station dyRD, Manhilot (Montano) explained that their operation was part of their "information and intelligence gathering" to check if there are smuggling activities in the province.

He calimed being designated as director of the anti-smuggling group last July by a certain Undersecretary Bebot Villar.

He pointed out that the conduct of inspection at the city port is within the mandates of the PASG under President Macapagal-Arroyo's Executive Order 624.

Informed of the concerns of businessmen on the delays in the movement of goods caused by their operations, Manhilot apologized for the inconvenience.

He told the Chronicle last Thursday that his men were already pulled out from the port.

However, contrary to his statement, there were still men of Manhilot until yesterday morning inspecting outgoing vehicles at the pier while some of his claimed agents could not even present their proper identification cards.

"We are authorized by law to conduct inspections of cargos and raids as part of the nationwide campaign to curb smuggling," Manhilot stressed saying there was "nothing irregular" in their operations here.

There are at least ten men assigned as anti-smuggling team here in the province, Manhilot claimed.

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