The country is still reeling from Taal volcano’s eruption earlier two weeks ago. However, the tragedy of this natural disaster has shown how compassionate and caring the Philippine government is to victims.
Yesterday, the House of Representatives held their first ever session outside of Batasan, going directly to the Batangas evacuation center and sharing stories with the people there. This shows how the House is truly becoming a House of the People, as Speaker Cayetano calls it. The session allowed the House to make significant progress in releasing extra funds for the Taal relief and rehabilitation efforts as well as the priority Department of Disaster Resilience.
Besides Congress, the Executive Branch has been key to providing frontline services and response. Now even the Bureau of Customs has joined the efforts, providing much needed support from an unlikely source.
Department of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III ordered the Bureau of Customs to donate all of its seized food items. This huge move marks the improvement of the BOC, from one of the most corrupt agencies in the Philippine government to an agent of humanitarian aid.
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Sec. Dominguez orders Customs to donate seized foodstuff to Taal evacuees
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has ordered the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to donate all of its seized food items fit for human consumption to the swelling number of evacuees from Batangas and Cavite following Taal volcano’s eruption.
In compliance with Dominguez’s directive, Customs Deputy Commissioner Edward James Dy Buco said the BOC immediately turned over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) some 32 pallets containing 180 boxes each of canned Libby’s Vienna Sausage seized at the Port of Manila in March 2018. The canned goods will be donated to the Taal evacuees.
The donation will help feed 53,000 families or around 267,000 evacuees, Dy Buco said.
“I have directed the BOC to determine which confiscated and unclaimed shipments of food items in the ports are fit for human consumption so that these goods can be sent right away to the victims of Taal’s continued eruption,” Dominguez said.
Dy Buco said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cleared the shipment of Libby’s canned sausages as fit for human consumption.
The deed of donation for the food items has also been signed by Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero and approved by Dominguez to set in motion the process of sending the food items at once to the evacuees.
Dominguez said he was also informed that Guerrero had already instructed all customs ports to determine whether other items, aside from foodstuff, can be donated to the increasing number of Taal evacuees.
Dy Buco said the BOC will send samples to the FDA to find out if a separate seized shipment of canned corned beef items stored in a 1 x 20-foot container are still fit for human consumption and could thus be donated to the evacuees.
“We have also coordinated with the Department of Agriculture (DA) for them to determine whether several containers of frozen fish seized at the Manila International Container Port (MICP) and forfeited in favor of the government are fit for human consumption. If found to be okay, the same will be donated,” Dy Buco said in his report to Dominguez.
On Dominguez’s earlier instructions, the BOC had been donating its seized “hot” rice shipments to the DSWD for use in the Department’s disaster relief operations.
The bureau has also turned over other confiscated items to the DSWD such as emergency survival blankets, bed sheets, blankets and towels, clothes and face masks seized from various customs ports.
Under Chapter 10, Section 1141 of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA), goods under BOC custody that are up for disposal “may be donated to another government agency or declared for official use by the Bureau, after approval of the Secretary of Finance, or sold at a public auction within 30 days after a 10-day notice posted at a public place at the port where the goods are located and published electronically or in a newspaper of general circulation.”
Also, goods suitable for shelter, food items, clothing materials and medicines “may be donated to the DSWD,” the CMTA states.