After the destruction of the smuggled luxury cars, what now?

The government organized a big PR event to demonstrate to the public its determination to weed out smuggling in the country. Through the glaring lenses of the media, two wrecking machines at the Subic Freeport thrashed, with impunity, a Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche Cayenne, Carrera, BMW and other high-end smuggled luxury cars. Ostensibly, the idea is to teach the car smugglers an expensive lesson.

But before smuggling as a national issue gets buried by the deepening war in the South and the swings in the peso value, we at the Fair Trade Alliance (FairTrade) would like to ask — after the ceremonial destruction of a dozen or so smuggled vehicles, what now? Has smuggling stopped? Have the smugglers disappeared?

If the idea is to exterminate smuggling, the government should have fastened the car smugglers inside these luxury cars before proceeding with the destruction. Of course, the smugglers are worse than the Abu Sayyafs – for they kill not dozens of Filipinos but virtually millions, millions who are unable to find jobs due to the collapse of local industry and agriculture as a result of the widespread and still unchecked smuggling of goods from China and other countries. In addition, these smugglers deprive the government annually of at least P175 billion, not P50 billion, of foregone revenues.

The point is that the car destruction exercise is dramatic but meaningless – because it is faceless. As if the vehicles entered the Philippines without any human being touching them. For the government’s anti-smuggling campaign to gain credibility, the campaign should reveal the names of the big-time smugglers and coddlers in the country. These smugglers and coddlers should be put behind bars.

Without a name-and-shame campaign, the ceremonial car destruction might end up as a rehash of what happened in Divisoria March of 2006 when the government raided and closed Mall 168, the country’s biggest outlet for smuggled goods. Weeks after the crackdown, the mall reopened; it has since been operating without any respite, bursting to the seams with all kinds of smuggled goods.

Yes, we support the renewed interest of the government to crack the whip against smugglers. But it should do so with firmness and determination to go after the smugglers themselves, not only after the smuggled goods. Raids, ceremonial destructions and executive directives against smuggling are routinely ignored by the smugglers because those mandated to stop smuggling are unable to sustain the campaign and haul the smugglers to prison. We ask the government: file legal cases against the people who brought in the destroyed vehicles, against those who connived to let the cars to enter the Philippines, against the addressees of the vehicles, and against those hiding behind the false names of the fictitious importing companies.
In addition, we, at FairTrade, would like to reiterate other proposals to curb smuggling:

  • President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo should certify as urgent the Anti-Smuggling Bill, filed in the 14th Congress as Senate Bill No. 106 and House Bill No. 15. In the 13th Congress, the anti-smuggling bill passed the House but got stalled in the office of a pro-Administration Senator.
  • The legislature should amend the Transaction Valuation Law and institute a system of correcting and updating import prices by adopting the risk valuation methods and customs procedures adopted by China, India, the United States, European Union and other developed countries.
  • The government should also –
  • limit the customs bonded warehouses (CBWs) to a number that can be effectively monitored and regularly audited (In 2003, only 70 CBWs were audited out of almost 1,000 operating CBWs),
  • overhaul the ineffective anti-smuggling control mechanisms in place at Subic, Clark and other economic and special zones,
  • penalize retailers-wholesales of smuggled items.

The point is that an effective anti-smuggling campaign requires bolder and more sustained reform and action measures from the executive and legislative branches.

Convenor – Fair Trade Alliance (FairTrade) LABOR
Published in the Letter to the Editor column of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, September 4, 2007


  1. Definitely there are many problems about legislation; so NGO’s should be more active and powerful. Anyway great post. Hope to hear more from you.

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  • Founded in 2001, the Fair Trade Alliance (FairTrade) of the Philippines is a broad multisectoral coalition of formal and informal labor, industry, agriculture, NGOs and youth pushing for trade and economic reforms.
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