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BOC seizes 18 containers of onions misdeclared as pizza dough, fishballs

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) has seized 18 misdeclared containers of onions shipped into the Manila International Container Port (MICP) concealed by pizza dough.

According to the BOC, the shipments were physically inspected at the MICP on March 10. The inspection was sought by the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service based on “derogatory information” from China.

“The shipments are covered by several Bills of Lading and various goods declarations and are said to contain pizza dough and fishballs,” the BOC said Monday.

The BOC said the shipments were in violation of local regulations that mandate importers to secure a sanitary and phytosanitary important clearance (SPIC) from the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) for agricultural commodities.

The agency said the pizza doughs used to conceal the red and yellow onions were also not covered by the mandated license and permit from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

"The BOC shall continue to maximize its intelligence resources and capabilities and intensify enforcement measures against unscrupulous importers and their cohorts to combat smuggling attempts, especially those involving agricultural goods which are inimical to our local farmers and businesses," Customs Commissioner Bienvenido Rubio said.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) in January approved the importation of 21,060 metric tons of onions to fill the supply gap in the country, as market prices spiked, even hitting over P700 per kilogram late last year.

According to the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG), market prices in Metro Manila should have gone down to as low as P80 per kilogram, as farmgate prices have fallen to range from P55 to P60 per kilogram.

Latest data available from the Department of Agriculture’s price monitoring, however, indicate that prices of the local red onion ranged from P90 to P150, and the local white onion from P80 to P130 per kilogram in Metro Manila markets as of last Friday, March 10. —Jon Viktor D. Cabuenas/KBK, GMA Integrated News