The Bureau of Customs–Port of Cebu denied a report it is holding shipments of surgical masks at the Cebu International Port (CIP) yard amid the global scare of the new coronavirus strain.
The denial came after a concerned citizen reported to the 8888 Citizen’s Complaint Hotline that BOC-Cebu held such shipment.
Jessica Luzano, head of the Entry Processing Unit (EPU) of BOC-Cebu, said she has not encountered processing an entry lodgment pertaining to a shipment that contains face masks, surgical masks or any apparatus that can be used for personal protection against viral infection such as the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
Luzano said a query was referred to the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS) which has been tasked to probe the complaint sent to 8888.
CIIS-Cebu supervisor Carlo Bautista told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in a phone interview that their intelligence personnel assigned at the CIP yard have not come across with alerted or held shipment of face masks.
“So far, the report is negative. We have checked the veracity of the information upon receiving a copy of the complaint last week. Wala naman (There was nothing),” he told PNA.
Bautista also instructed his staff to check six containers processed under entry numbers 4827, 4926, 5012 which were alerted last week but were found to contain imported tiles upon visual examination on Friday.
In a separate interview, Franz Muñoz, head of the CIIS at the subport of Mactan, said he was also informed about face mask importation but has not discovered any shipment being held in any of the customs-registered couriers.
Muñoz said it was the Intelligence Group of the BOC central office that first received a copy of the 8888 complaint on Feb. 12 and forwarded it to them with instruction to investigate.
“There was no importation of face masks as far as subport of Mactan is concerned. We have checked activities like exporting the face masks but in smaller quantity, maybe intended for our OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) working in countries infected with the new coronavirus,” Muñoz said.
Lawyer Kenneth Kern Sesante, chief of staff of BOC-Cebu acting Collector Charlito Martin Mendoza, said the bureau is aware of the necessity of face masks in Central Visayas as the world health authorities are still working to prevent the entry of Covid-19 into their respective countries.
He ensured the swift release of such kind of shipment if the consignee can present the needed documents and has paid the correct duties and taxes. (PNA)