MANILA — Some senators on Monday lambasted the Bureau of Customs (BOC) for confiscating the onions brought in by crewmembers of an airline amid the bloated price of the commodity in the local market.
During the Senate committee on Agriculture, Food, and Agrarian Reform's hearing on the supposed onion crisis, Sen. JV Ejercito called out BOC officials for "charging" and "shaming" some Philippine Airlines (PAL) crewmembers who were caught with onions and other agricultural products from abroad.
"PAL crew got arrested for smuggling of onions... Two kilograms, one kilogram, with a value of $100 to $150. Pero milyun-milyon yung nakakalusot sa smuggling. Ito papatulan natin, pero yung mga big-time na cartel, smuggler, protektor, nakakalusot?” Ejercito pointed out.
After hearing about the PAL crew's plight, Sen. Raffy Tulfo called the BOC's action "unacceptable" and accused them of being cozy with big-time smugglers.
"Bakit yun ang mga pinaghuhuli nyo? Hulihin n'yo mga big-time? Siguro nasa opisina nyo lagi. This is unacceptable... Ang kakapal ng mukha nyo. Pinahiya n'yo pa tong airline crew pampasalubong lang sa pamilya," Tulfo said.
Sen. Imee Marcos also believed that charging individuals for bringing in onions for personal consumption is "cruel and unusual."
"Cruel and unusual punishments have also been meted out upon OFWs who have been arrested in their attempt to bring in onions from
Dubai and elsewhere," she said.
BOC officials were not able to address the senators' remarks as the hearing went along.
However, in their Facebook page, the BOC said travelers may not bring in vegetables, regardless of quantity, into the Philippines without the required Plant Quarantine Clearance for personal use or Sanitary & Phytosanitary Import Clearance for commercial use from the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI).
"This is to safeguard and prevent the spread of plant pests in the Philippines," the agency said.
The BOC said their officers at NAIA confiscated assorted agricultural products from the luggage of 10 PAL flight attendants coming from Dubai and Riyadh last Jan. 10 due to lack of import permit and clearance from the BPI.
It said a probe is underway for the possible charges of Smuggling for violation of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act and Presidential Decree 1433 for Violation of Plant Quarantine Law by Customs and Bureau of Plant Industry against the PAL crew.
PAL said it is investigating the reported incident and will not condone any violation of Customs regulations.