BY ASHZEL HACHERO and ANGELA CELIS
FOREIGN Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. yesterday claimed the Bureau of Customs (BOC) has been delaying the release of essential medical supplies and equipment to be used in the government’s fight against the continuing spread of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) and keeping these in their warehouses.
In a Twitter post, Locsin advised medical personnel in need of personal protective equipment (PPEs) to go to the Customs warehouses to get said items.
“If PGH (Philippine General Hospital) and other frontline medical personnel are looking for PPEs, they are in Customs warehouses. Tons of them. Go get them there,” Locsin claimed Sunday night.
Locsin said that PGH, being “an arm of the government,” is entitled to take the supplies for their use, especially now that the country is in a state of public health emergency due to the COVID19 threat.
The BOC denied Locsin’s allegation, and stressed that “there is no such incident at any of (our) ports or warehouses.”
“The bureau assures the public that the processing of shipments containing medical supplies and relief goods are being done expeditiously especially during this time of emergency,” the agency said.
Locsin said he has requested ambassadors from various nations to supply the country with testing kits but was informed that such would still need customs clearance before these are released.
“We started with 2, 000 test kits. And I asked ambassadors for tens of thousands – private or government-to-government. Same problem that China warned me about: Without customs clearance, all (are) impounded and yet they are perishable items,” he added.
The BOC statement was mum on this allegation, but said that it has activated an assistance desk to “expedite the clearance and release” of such shipments.
“The public is also advised to visit the BOC website at customa.gov.ph for updates and details on foreign donation procedure,” it added.
To fasttrack the release of such shipments, the BOC called on stakeholders and importers to provide them with advanced detailed information of importation of emergency medical supplies so they can be anticipated and processed immediately.
It also reminded importers to secure the necessary importation permits and clearances required by regulatory agencies before the importations are finalized so as not to experience delays in the release of their shipments.