‘Customs office fire won’t affect shabu smuggling probe’

By CNN Philippines Staff

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) assured the public that the fire that hit its office at the Port of Manila on Friday night would not affect any of its probes, especially on the billions of pesos of shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) that slipped into the country in magnetic lifters last year.

Customs Spokesperson Dino Austria said they have soft copies of all of their documents. He added that documents related to the shabu smuggling incident are kept at the Manila International Container Port and not the Port of Manila.

“The Bureau of Customs maintains electronic copies of daily documents it processes. This is mandated by law. The servers are located in a different building,” Austria said. “It will neither derail nor delay any current investigation that is ongoing.”

The fire raged for 10 hours and gutted the Customs building, leaving at least ₱50 million in damages. The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) is still determining the cause of the fire.

Despite this, Austria said the collection of duties can proceed smoothly because transactions are done online.

“The payment of duties and taxes is done electronically. Bank to bank. Nobody comes to BOC to pay for duties and taxes,” he said.

Hundreds of Customs employees are busy working at their office on Monday, setting up temporary work stations to make sure that the processing of shipments and duties will proceed as smoothly as possible by Tuesday.

Austria said it would be business as usual at the Customs starting Tuesday, even if it might take some time for Customs brokers to get used to the new setup at the Port of Manila.

The Port of Manila is the Customs’ third largest collection district, next to the Manila International Container Terminal and the Port of Batangas. Its daily collection target stands at ₱366 million.

Austria said Customs officials will decide based on the BFP’s investigation if the historic building which survived World War II can still be repaired or if it would have to be demolished.

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