Customs corruption not behind Haagen-Dazs pullout

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 14 2012 02:13 PM | Updated as of Aug 15 2012 05:16 PM

MANILA, Philippine - Luxury ice cream brand Haagen-Dazs denied a newspaper report that claimed it pulled out of the Philippine market because of corruption at the Bureau of Customs.

Haagen Dazs brand manager Catherine Sanchez-Castro issued the statement, in response to a letter from Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon. Biazon had sought clarification from Haagen Dazs after an item "Goodbye Haagen-Dazs" appeared on Philippine Daily Inquirer's "Biz Buzz" column on August 8.

The item was written by Inquirer business features editor Margie Quimpo-Espino, who cited unnamed sources as saying Haagen-Dazs "could not tolerate a corrupt Bureau of Customs official they had to deal with when importing the goods." "Our sources said that instead of haggling over tariffs to pay in order for them to get their stocks past Customs, they decided to simply forget the Philippine market," the report said.

Haagen-Dazs had earlier announced that it will cease operations in the Philippines.

However, Castro denied the Biz Buzz item, saying it was "inaccurate" and that General Mills, distributor of Haagen Dazs, was not interviewed.

"General Mills is closing its business in the Philippines because its business performance in the Philippines has been challenging and has not met our targets for continuing investment. General Mills’ closure in the Philippines is unrelated to the activities of the Bureau of Customs," Castro said.

Biazon posted his letter to Castro, and her response on his blog (https://www.ruffybiazon.ph/?p=1703) in an entry "The TRUTH Behind the Haagen-Dazs Pullout from the Philippines."

In his letter to Castro, he asked the Haagen-Dazs brand manager to confirm the Inquirer report and name the "corrupt official who supposedly gave General Mills a hard time," so he can be prosecuted.

He admitted this was the first time he encountered any issue involving General Mills, which distributes Haagen-Dazs in the country.

"Often, companies who experience difficulties with Customs personnel elevate the problem to my office for resolution. I have acted in such issues brought to my attention because I believe that it is the best way to restore our stakeholders’ trust. Therefore, General Mills would have been guaranteed action on its grievance had it been brought to my attention," the Customs chief said.

"The article would have its readers believe that it is due to corruption in the Bureau as the sole reason for General Mills’ pullout.  I have spoken to the writer of the article and she told me that her source was not General Mills but an importer who supposedly does business with the BOC."

Haagen-Dazs Philippines is closing its stalls at Shangri-La Plaza Mall and Eastwood Mall on August 31. Last June 30, Haagen-Dazs shut its branches at SM Mall of Asia and Robinsons Mall.

Haagen-Dazs entered the Philippine market in 1998. Haagen-Dazs is known as a super premium brand, and priced twice or triple local ice cream brands.