Customs seizes undervalued goods

The Bureau of Customs (BoC) reported yesterday the seizure of about P30 million worth of steel pipes, mobile phones, appliances, sporting goods and other taxable items from China at the Manila International Container Port (MICP). The steel pipes came from Guangzhou and Hebei, China and consigned to Siegreich Enterprise in Escolta, Manila. They were found to have been undervalued based on actual versus declared weight. Commissioner Isidro Lapeña said that upon verification, a customs examiner noted that the shipment weighed 27,100 kilos on the magna scale based on net stowage, way heavier than the declared weight. The BoC determines the actual weight of the shipment minus the container weight to determine the duties due. The bureau valued the steel shipment at P18 million. Another shipment consigned to Hepomlan Trading was intercepted for misdeclaration and lack of import permit from Food and Drugs Administration. The shipment which arrived on 13 May 2018 was declared to contain screws, earphones, inflatable toys, molds, aluminum oil boxes, mats, labeling machines, freezers, plastic containers, blouses, skirts, cell phone stands and printer fitting. However, MICP authorities found the shipment to contain teeth whitening sets, aerosol insecticides, wedding ring cases, sporting goods, cutlery sets, lamp shades, and hair treatment products. The goods were estimated to be worth P12 million, Collector Vener Baquiran said. The importers of the seized items violated Section 1400 in relation to Section 1113 of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) of 2016. The customs chief said once the steel pipes and tubes are forfeited in favor of the government, it will be auctioned off to generate more revenues to the bureau. Meanwhile, the BoC has filed criminal cases against three alleged smugglers and a licensed customs broker involved in a so-called “swing operation” at the sub-port of Tagoloan in Misamis, Oriental. The cases were filed against consignees Mave Trading, JDan Trading and General Success Merchandize, along with their custom broker Raul M. De Leon Jr. Mave Trading imported five container vans of onions and two container vans of used clothing. JDan Trading brought in 2,167 bags of sugar declared as pre-fabricated steel. General Success smuggled 2,316 bags of sugar declared as boiler casings. With Raymart Tolo

Mindanao tourists: What martial law?

By Perseus Echeminada LAGUINDINGAN AIRPORT, Misamis Oriental – Foreign visitors arriving here usually expect to see elements of an area under martial law – soldiers in full battle gear and even tanks. Why not considering the news that grabbed international attention with the capture by Muslim extremists of Marawi City and its recapture by government forces? “Where are the tanks and soldiers? Mindanao is supposed to be under martial law” a foreign tourist asked this reporter, referring to President Rodrigo Duterte putting the whole of Mindanao under military rule. Many foreign tourists have expressed relief that they only see taxi drivers and dispatchers of shuttle buses outside the airport, with a few policemen and security guards on duty. While there were checkpoints here there, there were hardly combat-ready soldiers on sight. One checkpoint in El Salvador check the identification documents of travellers to Cagayan de Oro but no frisking were done. Martial law in Mindanao has practically sent organized criminal groups out of their lairs to the hinterlands after the liberation of Marawi, according to police and military officers the Daily Tribune talked with. “Terrorists and other armed and criminal groups were held at bay in their mountains hideouts by police and military forces who have kept watch on their movements,” one officer said. The President’s order has, however, imposed discipline on people who now stay in their homes after 10 p.m. because of curfew imposed by local government units (LGU). “No more karaoke singing (as) people stay at home after 10 p.m.” a businessman told the Daily Tribune. But the war on illegal drugs and terrorists declared by President Duterte continue to hogged headlines of local radio stations and tabloids in the island. “Martial law is now taking its toll on the enemies of state while winning the hearts and mind of peace loving people in Mindanao,” said a resident.

DoJ to fuse all Dengvaxia cases

The Department of Justice is mulling the consolidation of the complaints filed by private individuals and groups with that filed by the National Bureau of Investigation before the Office of the Ombudsman against former President Benigno Aquino III, two of his cabinet and several former and incumbent officials of the Department of Health. The charges against the former president are in connection with purchase, distribution and use of the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia. Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, in baring the move, said: “Except for the forum, the complaint filed by the NBI is essentially the same as the complaint filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption.” “There is a possibility that the complaints may be consolidated to avoid conflicting resolutions. The VACC filed the case at the DoJ, which could be in charge of the consolidation,” Guevarra said. He added that the motion to consolidate should come from any of the complaining parties, though. In a letter signed by NBI Director Dante Gierran to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, it recommended preliminary investigation against Aquino and his co-respondents, including former Budget Chief Florencio Abad and ex-Health Secretary Janette Garin for connivance in the introduction of the Dengvaxia vaccine by circumventing procurement and other government processes. The NBI said Aquino, Abad, and Garin should be held liable for technical malversation in conspiring to unlawfully release savings from the 2015 Mutual Benefit Personnel Fund for use to augment the anti-dengue immunization program. Aquino questioned the NBI investigation, saying he cooperated with the earlier probe by the agency and did not receive further notice on the probe afterward. The VACC and the Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution, Inc. filed complaints before the DoJ in February against the three. Also implicated were several other personalities for possible violation of Section 3 of Republic Act (RA) 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act); Section 65 of RA 9184 (Government Procurement, Reform Act); Article 220 (Technical Malversation) of the Revised Penal Code; Article 365 (Criminal Negligence) of the Revised Penal Code and for other violations of the law. Other respondents are health officials Maria Joyce Ducusin, Julius Lecciones, Maria Wilda Silva, Mario Baquilod and Rosalinda Vianzon. Technical malversation The agency also recommended to probe former Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial for technical malversation for her part in the vaccine program. The purchase amounting to P3.5 billion was used in the vaccination of 830,000 children. The Public Attorney’s Office claimed over 200 deaths can be attributed to Dengvaxia use. The NBI said the purchase was made without certificates of product registration given to Dengvaxia which only received a certificate of exemption. It also mentioned some irregularities and that “the issuance of Certificate of Exemption was reduced to a mere procedural technicality that should be complied in order for the responsible officials to procure Dengvaxia.” The NBI asked the Ombudsman to hold Garin, Health Undersecretary Kenneth Hartigan-Go, former officer-in-charge of Food and Drug Authority lawyer Nicolas Lutero; former OIC of Center for Drug Research and Regulation-FDA Ma. Lourdes Santiago; OIC CDRR-FDA Melody Zamudio; FDA consultants Grace Medina and Imelda Matero; health undersecretaries Lyndon Lee Suy and Vito Roque; and Sanofi officers Conchita Santos, Oliver Charmeil, Guillaume Leroy, Jean Antoine Zinsou, Thomas Triomphe, Joselito del Mundo Sta. Ana and Jervin Papelleras liable for violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. They said Formulary Executive Council chairperson Froilan Bagabaldo and members Cleotilde How, Cecicilia Jimeno, Hilton Lam, Cecilia Maramba-Lazarte, Paul Matthew Pasco, Imelda Pena and John Wong should also be investigated for violation of R.A 3019. The respondents were accused of “causing undue injury” to government by giving Sanofi unwarranted privilege in connection with the anti-dengue vaccine deal. On June 4, Aquino, Abad and Garin submitted their counter-affidavits before the DoJ panel headed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Rossane Balauag with members, Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Hazel Decena Valdez, Assistant State Prosecutors Consuelo Corazon Pazziuagan and Gino Paolo Santiago at the DoJ in response to the criminal complaint filed by VACC and VPCI. The complainants on June 22 filed their reply affidavits before the DoJ panel of prosecutors during the preliminary hearing of the case. The panel gave the respondents until July 20 to file their respective rejoinders. Other respondents are DoH Undersecretaries Carol Tanio, Gerardo Bayugo, Lilibeth David and Mario Villaverde; and Assistant Secretaries Lyndon Lee Suy and Nestor Santiago; health department’s Financial Management Service director Laureano Cruz; directors Dr. Joyce Ducusin, Dr. May Wynn Belo, Dr. Leonila Gorgolon, Dr. Rio Magpantay, Dr. Ariel Valencia and Dr. Julius Lecciones; retired health undersecretaries Dr. Nemesio Gako, Dr. Vicente Belizario Jr., and Dr. Kenneth Hartigan-Go; and Dr. Yolanda Oliveros, who served as Garin’s head executive assistant. Also indicted were officials and employees of the pharmaceutical company Zuellig, which supplied the Dengvaxia vaccine and Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccine manufacturer.

‘Unskilled grads’ create job mismatch

By Nelson Badilla and Richard Gaytos The Philippine Business for Education yesterday said the country’s tertiary education system is now facing a serious problem of producing ‘unskilled’ college graduates resulting in a rise in joblessness. PBEd executive director Love Basillote said the employability of a number of college students is a perennial problem for the country. The 2018 data of the Philippine Statistics Authority shows 21.9 percent or 508,080 college graduates form part of the 2.32 million jobless Filipinos-- proof of the PBEd assertion. PSA also showed 13.7 percent or 317,840 of the unemployed were college undergraduates while 29.4 percent of 682,080 were junior high school level graduates of the old curriculum. There were 21.3 percent or 853,320.6 college graduates of the four million, 14.5 percent or 580,899 were college undergraduates and 33.1 or 1,326,052.2 percent have completed junior high school level. The unemployment problem has been a serious concern for different labor groups. Lawyer Jose Sonny Matula, president of the Federation of Free Workers, said: “There is not enough local jobs to accommodate the graduates. That’s the reason why they look for overseas employment.” According to Basillote, the reason for the failure of a big number of college graduates can be the lack of skills needed by various industries and they are having difficulty getting hired. “There has to be an emphasis on learning – ensuring that they will learn the skills they need for future employment,” Basillote said. “Also, focus on high quality teaching in the classroom, regarding the delivery of education, a more decentralized approach and empowering the schools to come up with the solutions (are needed in order to address the employability of the college graduates),” Basillote stressed. He asserted that lack of skills or none at all has a direct effect on the “competitiveness and growth of the country’s economy” because they are closely connected to each other. FFW has the same point of view as Matula stressed that it “is job mismatch. There is a need for schools to coordinate with industries to know the job requirements.” However, Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, an independent, nonprofit research and policy institute conducted an analysis on government education data and found that “people are more likely to get a job out of college if they choose a major with a clear career path, such as business. They also stand to make a lot more money if they choose a math or science major over liberal arts.” Basillote said PBEd strongly believes that the academe, government and industries must coordinate and discuss a plan on how to improve the college students’ skills. “It is an interconnected set of solutions that aligns education and training to national competitiveness,” she said.

Underground cave found in Bukidnon

By Perseus Echeminada MALAYBALAY, Bukidnon—Members of the Higaonon tribe recently discovered a massive underground cave with a mini forest and crystal clean spring. Higaonon is an indigenous tribe in the northern and central regions of Mindanao. The cave’s entrance is an 80-meter hole which remains unexplored as the locals consider the place sacred. Residents in the area where the cave was found said a man gathering “guano” had gone missing there years ago. His body was later found 80 feet below the cave entrance. A local described the cave as “like a cathedral with spring flowing towards an unknown direction.” The location of the area was withheld on the request of the Daily Tribune source so as not to attract treasure hunters and looters. The cave is located beside a hill within the ancestral land of a tribal clan in the area.

Navy: Chinese ship in Davao restocking

The Philippine Navy expressed no concern over the docking of the Chinese vessel Yuan Wang 3 in Davao City on Monday. Navy Spokesman Cmdr. Jonathan Zata said on Tuesday the ship is in the city to replenish its stocks. Accorting to Zata, the ship arrived 8:14 p.m. on Monday and will stay in the country until July 19. “They are here for replenishment as granted by the diplomatic clearance issued by higher authorities,” Zata said. “This is a routine ship visit similar with any other foreign ship wishing to call on our ports,” Zata added. “It’s completely routine, nothing unusual about the visit,” Zata said. It is not uncommon for foreign sea vessels, including warships, to dock momentarily in the Philippine ports. The country’s waters are attractive stopover ports for foreign vessels in need of stock being an archipelago. “We had Chinese warships calling on our ports in the past. We treat them the same as with any other warships from other countries,” Zata said. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana echoed Zata’s remarks. “Yes. We know about it. The Chinese Ambassador (Zhao Jianhua) wrote to the SFA (Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alan Peter) Cayetano that it would be docking in Davao to refurbish and it was allowed to do so,” the defense chief said. Malacanang, through Presidential Spokesman Harry Roques, said: “All ships from countries with whom the Philippines maintains friendly ties, may dock at our ports. Chinese survey ships, just like US warships, may dock at our ports.” “Only those afflicted with sinophobia will find the routine incident objectionable,” he added. With Angie Rosales and PNA

Minor NPA combatants surrender

Five minors who claimed to be New People’s Army soldiers for the Northen Luzon Command recently surrendered to authorities. The five Indigenous People are still in their teens. They claimed “fatigue and difficulty in the mountains as regular NPA fighters” caused their surrender. They were assisted by the local community in Licuan Baay, Abra. According to the five minors, they were from a Manobo tribe from Bukidnon province. After their recruitment as NPA fighters, the young group claimed to have been immediately transported to Luzon and embedded as regular fighting units of the Maoist army. Three of the teenagers were turned over to the headquarters of 24th Infantry Battalion for medical examination. The other two minors are now under the care of Department of Social Welfare and Development.

More rains seen, alert level up

Two other low-pressure areas spotted by Pagasa Enhanced by Tropical Depression “Henry,” the southwest monsoon will bring more rains over the country today, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA). The weather bureau issued tropical cyclone warning signal no. 1 over Batanes, northern Cagayan, Babuyan group of islands, Apayao, and Ilocos Norte due to the tropical depression. It forecasts that these areas will experience occasional rains with gusty winds. It also warned of possible flooding and landslides due to light to moderate with occasional heavy rains in these areas. PAGASA advised fisherfolk and those with small boats not to head out to sea due to strong winds. As of 4 p.m., Henry was last spotted 180 kilometers east-southeast of Calayan, Cagayan and is moving west at 35 km per hour. It is packing maximum sustained winds of 60 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 75 kph. Henry was expected to make its landfall in the Babuyan group of islands yesterday evening and further forecast to exit the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR) on Tuesday morning. The bureau also forecast monsoon rains in Metro Manila, Zambales, Bataan, Cavite, Batangas, Mindoro, Palawan and Western Visayas in the next 24 hours. It also cautioned of possible flooding and landslides due to light to moderate to at times heavy rains in these areas. Part of the country will have cloudy skies with scattered rain showers and thunderstorms caused by the southwest monsoon. Meanwhile, two other low-pressure areas (LPA) were spotted around the country yesterday with one located 200 km east-southeast of Calayan, Cagayan as of 4 p.m. and the other spotted 1,070 km south of Infanta, Quezon as of 1 p.m. The western section of Luzon will also have moderate to rough coastal waters, while extreme northern Luzon will have moderate to rough seas. Other areas will experience slight to moderate currents. PAGASA sees a temperature range of 16-34°C across the country until Friday.

Coast Guard seizes firearms

Personnel of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) intercepted yesterday 46 units of cal. 45 pistols with magazines while conducting patrol on two rolling cargo vessels bound for Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte. The vessels came from the Samboan ferry port in Cebu last July 14. The illegal firearms and ammunitions were confiscated from three suspects, namely Velino C. Cubol, Flora Mae R. Cubol and Maria Bella A. Manot, all residents of Barangay Suba, Danao City, Cebu. The firearms and bullets were turned over to PNP Samboan for appropriate legal action. The suspects are now in police custody and will be charged with violation of Sec. 28, Art. V, of R.A. 10591, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Act. The PCG intensified its operations against possible illegal movement of firearms from the Visayas to Mindanao based on the directive of PCG Commandant Admiral Elson Hermogino. Hermogino ordered his men to cut the supply of firearms to lawless elements and terrorists groups operating in Southern Philippines.
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