Smuggling-related charges have been filed by Philippine Customs officials before the Department of Justice against the owner of a Manila trading company and its customs broker for allegedly smuggling steel angle bars, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) said.
The cases were filed against Shine Rapadas Montes, owner and proprietor of Thunder Birds Trading, the second-largest importer of steel products in 2013, and the firm’s customs broker, Jolly Lareza. Investigators found Montes had misdeclared her firm’s importation of steel angle bars.
The shipments arrived in five batches of 25 20-foot containers from China through the Port of Manila from January 2 to 5 this year. The products were declared as “steel bar, clamp, flexible tubing and hinges” in the import documents but upon inspection, they were found to contain “steel angle bars.”
Importers of steel products are required by law to have their products tested and certified by the Department of Trade and Industry-Bureau of Product Standards (DTI-BPS) that these meet safety and product quality standards.
Importers of products covered by the mandatory Philippine National Standards are issued Import Commodity Clearance (ICC) and allowed to use the ICC mark after samples of the product to be imported have been tested and evaluated by the DTI-BPS.
The BOC said neither had Thunder Birds Trading applied for product certification, nor was it a registered PS license holder for any steel products.
“Aside from curbing smuggling, we at the Bureau of Customs are mandated to stop the entry of substandard products in the market. These products pose risks for our people’s health and safety,” said Customs Commissioner John P. Sevilla in a statement.
Thunder Birds was also found to have misdeclared its import entries to evade payment of the additional safeguard duty of P3,706.03 per metric ton for imported steel angle bars, or a total of P1,556,532.60.
Montes and Lareza also misdeclared the quantity of steel bars imported by Thunder Birds by as much as 140%, and cheated on the dutiable value declared for the shipment.
In 2013 Thunder Birds brought in about 7.6 million kilograms of steel products, but paid the second-lowest amount of duties and taxes for steel products they imported at just P16.15 per kilo, way below the weighted average import valuation for the same products coming from China.
“We will not stop in our drive to curb smuggling and plug the loopholes that have allowed unscrupulous traders to illegally import goods that have hurt local industries, caused the closure of companies and loss of jobs and hampered our economic growth,” Sevilla said.
Montes and Lareza face charges of violating of Section 6 of RA 4109 (Bureau of Product Standards Law), Philippine National Standards (PNS) 657-2008 and Section 6.1.3 of DTI Department Administrative Order No. 2, Series of 2007 for the attempt of an unlicensed ICC-holder to import steel angle bars that did not go through PS certification; as well as Sections 3601 and 3602 of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines for the unlawful importation and fraudulent filing of import documents.