By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta (PBA) Party-list Rep. Jericho “Koko” Nograles on Sunday sounded an alarm over the supposed “swinging” operation at the Mindanao International Container Terminal Services Inc. (MICT) at the Phividec Industrial Estate complex.
He questioned the “highly suspicious” transfer of the mobile X-ray machine out of the designated examination area since September 10, 2018.
“Due to martial law in Mindanao, the MICT and other seaports and free ports in Mindanao must have strict monitoring of incoming and outgoing shipments. This questionable decision to transfer the X-ray is truly very alarming and highly suspicious. Mukhang may mga kababalaghang nangyayari dito,” Nograles said in a statement.
He disclosed that aside from misdeclaration and lane-switching, a new modus called “swinging” is now being employed by syndicates to smuggle into the country various contrabands.
He expressed concern that the decision to transfer the mobile x-ray from the examination area would make it easier for smugglers to “swing” their containers in and out of the MICT.
“It is also very dangerous considering the continuing threat of terrorism in Mindanao,” Nograles said, noting that Congress has decided to extend martial law in Mindanao because of the lingering security problem in the region.
“What is even more suspicious is the absence of any official memorandum or directive coming from the Bureau of Customs (BOC) head office which would have prompted the transfer of the X-ray machine,” he said.
Nograles said he called the attention of Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero about this supposed anomaly in a letter dated November 20, 2018 and has yet to receive any feedback from him.
“This representation is in receipt of reports that X-ray machine of the Bureau of Customs in Mindanao International Container Terminal in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental was moved away from the Designated Examination area since 10 September 2018. Further said reports received by this office claim that there was no documented legal order to cease all examinations in the Designated Examination area,” he said in his letter to Guerrero.
“The lack of proper inspection is alarming, as it is not just violative of the laws, rules, and regulations, it allows contraband to enter Mindanao,” he said.
Nograles said under the “swinging” modus, containers are sneaked out of the port to be unloaded in nearby warehouses and the same containers are then brought back to the MICT for dummy inspection and documentation.
“They call this swinging operation or swinging. In this modus, no shipment is missing since all containers are all accounted for. Containers that contain smuggled goods are unloaded before documentation and this becomes possible because the containers no longer pass through the examination area,” Nograles said.
He said only recently 51 shipping containers filled with garbage from South Korean have been discovered and seized at the MICT.
“This shows the brazenness of these smugglers. Trying to smuggle in 51 containers filled with garbage shows their confidence that they can pass through customs. Something must have gone wrong along the way and that’s why the shipment was discovered,” Nograles said.
He said the decision to transfer the mobile X-ray is an isolated incident in MICT, while all other ports still maintain X-ray inspections in their designated examination areas.