Kuwait Dabbling in Allowing Foreign Investment: I Wonder What This Machine Does
Taking the Plame Wars to a Whole New Level

Guam Airport Chief LOVES Manila

From an ongoing series on unauthorized cameras and listening devices found in the Customs area of the Guam Airport.

From Marinas Variety -- "Micornesia's leading newspaper since 1972" -- this bit of high comedy. It took me a moment to get a sense of whether they were making this up, since it does so have the flavor of The Onion. I think this is for real, and  there is an accompanying story with a more serious tone. The context of this, for those who have not been following it, is that an investigation is underway to determine who planted unauthorized spying equipment (listening devices and hidden cameras) in the customs inspection areas of the Guam airport: Guam airport chief loves Manila

The executive manager of Guam International Airport Authority on Wednesday admitted traveling frequently to Manila for his weekend “rejuvenation.”

“I don’t like Manila, I love Manila,” GIAA general manager Jess Torres told this reporter. “I do not have anything to hide. I don’t like going to Philippines — I love going to Philippines. I need it for relaxation and I am entitled to that.”

When asked why he loves the city, Torres said besides shopping Manila also has “many beautiful girls.”

According to Torres it is “therapeutic” for him to be in Manila’s Ermita district every weekend because he can do everything he wants and he gets the pampering he needs.

I can get my manicure, pedicure and hair coloring in very affordable prices, and yes I love shopping at Robinson’s Galleria, walk along Malate and enjoy the warm hospitality of my Filipino friends. Would you believe that I am more familiar with the nooks and crannies of Manila than of the island?” Torres said.

He said the pass rider or buddy pass he has been using was provided to him by an employee of Continental Micronesia married to his nephew Fred Tupaz, the airport’s contractual consultant.

“It was offered to me by my niece — I never coerced her and it is her discretion whether she wants to use it or give it to a relative and it just happened that she extended it to me,” Torres said. . . .

Despite these criticisms, Torres said he is already looking forward to his next trip to Manila.

“I would love to go back to Manila again. After our meetings about our expansion projects and various improvement programs I will definitely get my break — anyway I deserve it,” Torres said.

The Office of the Public Auditor sees things a little differently, as recounted in the other story on the Marinas Varity site: OPA joins probe on airport manager’s travels

THE Office of the Public Auditor will conduct its own investigation on the frequent travels of Guam International Airport Authority general manager Jesse Q. Torres to determine whether he violated ethical standards.

Torres traveled 16 times to Manila, Philippines from February 2005 to January 2006 on Continental Airlines using a buddy pass extended to him by a Continental employee named Ana Tupaz, the wife of Fred Tupaz who is Torres’ nephew and works as an airport contractual consultant.

Public Auditor Doris Brooks said the OPA investigation was prompted by the Attorney General’s Office’s request for actions on the report that Torres has been traveling on Continental Airlines using the buddy pass of the airport vendor’s employee.

Attorney General Douglas Moylan, in a two-page letter to the public auditor, cited the Guam Procurement Law which prohibits kickbacks, gratuities, gifts and favors of any kind up to a value of $200 a year.

The law, according to Moylan, states that it shall be a “breach of ethical standards for any person who is a contractor or any person associated with, to offer, give or agree to give any employee or agent of the territory or for any employee or agent of the territory to solicit or accept for any such person or entity or agent thereof, a favor or gratuity on behalf of the territory whether or not such favor or gratuity may be considered a reimbursable expense of the territory.”

Hard to tell from this distance whether the airport manager's trips to Manila will tie into the investigation of who it was that was spying on US customs inspectors, but it certainly is suggestive!

MEANWHILE, the Philippines seems to have a customs scandal of its own, which I have just begun to try to parse. From the Manila Standard Today: Smuggling is rampant — Customs

BUREAU of Customs (BoC) officials admitted that the smuggling of shabu and other drugs into the country remains rampant.

Customs enforcement and security service chief Nestorio Gualberto told Standard Today that shabu coming from so-called high-risk countries such as China is rampant.

Gualberto explained that aside from China, other high-risk countries include Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Thailand and several African countries where the use and distribution of heroin and opiate are widespread.

Because of this, Malacañang has ordered the BoC to intensify its campaign against drug smuggling following reports that the United States State Department tagged the Philippines “drug smuggler’s paradise.”

According to BoC legal service director Reynaldo Umali, however, the agency is doing its best to curb the illegal entry of drugs and other shipments. . . .

For his part, acting Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales said his personnel are under a heightened alert status and are closely monitoring all shipments and cargo coming from these high-risk countries after the bureau received an intelligence report stipulating that a drug syndicate is attempting to bring in large shipment of drugs in the guise of candles.

Morales said all cargo and baggage coming from these countries will be placed under surveillance. He assured that smuggling will be prevented since the agency is equipped with advanced detection systems.

There is also this interesting piece from journel.com.ph in the Pilippines: Why Customs lose billions

SMUGGLING lord Samuel Uy Lee uses nine importer firms and eight Customs brokers to cheat the government of billions of pesos in badly-needed Customs revenues yearly.

And if there's truth to reports gathered by the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group that Lee has been operating in the Port of Manila since the 1990s, Customs revenue losses could even reach several billions of pesos, according to Roger S. Santos, national president of the 300,000-member Citizens Anti-Crime Assistance Group (CAAG).

According to government estimates, the Bureau of Customs loses some P100 billion in yearly revenue leakages.

As this developed, hundreds of Customs personeros (brokers'  representatives) yesterday expressed dismay over the excessive red tape in the POM formal entry division saying that their import documents are consumption import entries and that they are willing to pay the correct duties and taxes prior to the release of their goods.

''Buhat ng mabulgar ang smuggling ni Samuel Uy Lee, pati kami ay pinapahirapan ng mga taga-assessment division kahit binabayaran naming ang tama ang tarifa," said the Customs personeros, who expressed fears that it would now take them two to three weeks to have their goods released from the piers, instead of the usual five days.

They called on Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales to immediately attend to their complaints.

Also yesterday, President Macapagal-Arroyo made a surprise visit to the Manila South Harbor to personally commend Commissioner Morales for checking the  smuggling activities of Samuel Uy Lee, who was apprehended by a  CIDG team under Chief Supt. Jesus A. Versoza for alleged illegal diversion of three container vans of untaxed resin shipment to an enduser.

Santos furnished the Journal Group a three-page official Customs document listing the nine importer firms and eight Customs brokers being used by the smuggling lord.

Santos identified the nine firms as Can Walk Commercial, importer of used chasis assembly and used aluminum frame; 2) Pacific strait Enterprises, importer of used auto engine spare parts; 3) Goldsam Enterprises Inc., importer of used automotive parts; 4) Liontex Enterprises Inc. importer of frozen dough and assorted products; 5) White River Concepts Co., Inc, importer of gypsum powder and chemicals; 6) Qualitex Garments Inc., importer of poly bags, textiles and garment accessory products; 7) Wellknit Impex Mfg. Corp., importer of packaging materials and accessories; 8) Asia Clothing Co., Inc, importer of textiles, packaging materials and clothing accessories; and 9) Capital Garment Corp., importer of textiles and garment accessories.

Based on Santos' papers, the smuggling lord uses the following Customs brokers, namely 1) Jade Bros Freight Int'l Inc. 2) MS Misual Customs Brokerage, 3) Global Logistics 22 Customs Service, 4) Marcelo D. Laylo Customs Brokerage, 5) Harbor Link Brokerage Services, 6) Allblanc Customs Brokerage, 7) Elitsped Services Inc. and 8) Mark Davies Int'l Corp. . . .

But the manner of approval made on the 59 questioned import entries is highly irregular because the same were merely subjected to the so-called table examination. In plain language, according to an insider, not a single container van consigned to Lee's firms had been opened for ocular Customs examination as required by law. . . .

Customs insiders said Samuel Lee's protectors and fixers include media people who ape hard-hitting broadcasters and columnists.