The Bureau of Customs is “finalizing” the plan to expedite the release of smuggled personal protective equipment and alcohol so that they can be donated to health workers on the front line against the coronavirus disease 2019.
BoC spokesman Philip Vincent Maronilla made this remark after authorities on Thursday seized P5-million worth of PPE and alcohol which were sold much higher the suggested retail price in a store in Binondo, Manila.
“We’re finalizing some plans to assist and expedite the forfeiture of these overpriced items so they can be donated to our front-liners who need them,” Maronilla said.
The BoC earlier gave the store owners 15 days to present documents proving that the seized items were legally procured or face charges for violating the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.
Meanwhile, Maronilla said the BoC has processed 2,865 shipments of PPE, emergency medical supplies, and equipment as of March 29.
The BoC also prioritizes the release of essential goods like food and medicine, he added.
He admitted that there have been “issues” with the turnover of cargo shipments because some importers were having difficulty pulling out their containers.
However, he said the BoC is coordinating with concerned agencies to fast-track the release of these basic goods.
Maronilla also assured that all customs security personnel, especially those working under skeletal force, receive their overtime pay.
The BoC has also secured PPE for front-liners as early as late January, he said.
“That’s Commissioner (Rey Leonardo) Guerrero’s top priority. Before this ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) started, our bureau made sure that our front-liners are protected. They deal not just with cargoes but sometimes they deal with people as well,” he said.
President Duterte placed the entire Luzon under enhanced community quarantine from March 17 to April 12 to require residents to stay indoors and limit movement to accessing basic necessities.
However, the movement of cargo for food, pharmacies, and other companies offering basic services will be unhampered during quarantine period to ensure stable supply and prices.