Customs files smuggle raps vs plywood trader, broker
MANILA, Philippines—The Bureau of Customs (BOC) on Thursday filed smuggling charges against the owner of a Bulacan-based trading firm and her broker for alleged unlawful importation of plywood from China worth P30 million.
Charged in the Department of Justice were Michaela Ante, sole owner and proprietress of Bandini Trading in San Miguel, Bulacan, and customs broker Anna Marie Vallespin.
Customs Commissioner John Sevilla said Vallespin allegedly brokered the entry of 43 40-foot container vans of what was declared as “ordinary plywood” that arrived in seven batches at the Subic port on June 17 to July 13.
The shipments were intercepted by the BOC following information from the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) Bureau of Product Standards (BPS) that Bandini Trading allegedly submitted fake conditional release permits (CRPs). The CRP is a document issued by the BPS required for the customs clearance of goods that are required by law to undergo mandatory product testing at the agency.
Republic Act No. 4109 or the 1964 standardization law of the Philippines requires mandatory product certification from BPS for importers and manufacturers of goods such as plywood and other constructions materials prior to product distribution and sale.
Products that comply with Philippine National Standard (PNS) requirements will be issued a Philippine Standard (PS) license and Import Commodity Clearance (ICC) certificate.
According to the complaint, the BPS found out that Bandini Trading was not a registered PS license holder for any wood products covered by mandatory certification nor did the firm apply for or obtained the required ICCs or CRPs for the subject shipments.
“This is a very clear case of unscrupulous traders who choose to ignore our laws. We cannot put the lives of our people and public safety at risk from construction materials that were never certified for safety or product quality,” Sevilla said.
Ante and Vallespin face charges of violating RA 4109 and DTI Department Order No. 5, series of 2008, for failure to obtain PS License and product certifications; Sections 3601 and 3602 of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines for unlawful importation and the fraudulent filing of import documents; and Article 172 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines for falsification of public documents.
“Let this be a warning to those in the business of trading construction materials that we are strictly implementing a ‘no permit, no entry’ policy,” Sevilla said.
According to the BOC, the DTI was also investigating Bandini Trading for allegedly submitting fake CRPs that were allegedly signed by the current BPS director-in-charge, lawyer Ann Claire Cabochan, to discharge the imported plywood.
Last month, the BOC and BPS warned the public to be vigilant when buying plywood. In a joint statement, the two agencies said that of the 31,077 tons of plywood imported into the Philippines in July 2014, about 69 percent were released without the required clearances from BPS, while another 27 percent were released in which the BPS was still verifying whether the appropriate clearances had been issued.