• Sen. Tulfo said the customs bureau should focus on "big time smugglers" instead
  • The BOC authorities said they had "confiscated illegally imported agricultural products" from 10 flight attendants
  • A BOC official said PAL had launched an investigation on its employees

Sen. Raffy Tulfo has condemned the Bureau of Customs (BOC) for taking action against the Philippine Airlines (PAL) flight attendants, who brought home onions and other agricultural products from the Middle East.

"Big time smugglers should be your priority. Why don't you arrest them? Maybe they are always in your office. This is unacceptable," Sen. Tulfo said of the BOC during a Senate panel committee hearing on Monday that also discussed the skyrocketing prices of onions in the country, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported.

The veteran broadcaster was referring to 10 PAL cabin crew who, according to Sen. JV Ejercito, only brought home onions and other agricultural products such as fruits for their families' "personal consumption."

"This one, we will punish, but big-time cartels, smugglers, and protectors go free?" Sen. Tulfo quipped, reiterating that the BOC "intercepted something that is for their personal consumption only."

Tulfo's furious remarks came hours after the BOC authorities at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) revealed Monday that they had "confiscated illegally imported agricultural products" from the luggage of 10 flight attendants from Dubai and Riyadh, last week.

In its statement regarding the matter, the BOC-NAIA said the flight attendants in question didn't have the necessary clearance to bring home such products, which included about 40 kilograms of red onions.

"Further investigation is underway against the flight crew for alleged illegal importation," the BOC-NAIA said, adding that the individuals in question "also exhibited unruly behavior by stomping/stepping on the imported agriculture products."

The agency said PAL will also investigate the matter separately, and "impose necessary sanctions."

However, a BOC official clarified Tuesday through ABS-CBN News in an interview that the bureau wasn't the one conducting the investigations, but PAL. She said the flight attendants were well aware of the rules, which said they should not bring home agricultural products without clearances.

Meanwhile, Sen. Ejercito, likely referring to the high prices of several commodities in the country such as onions, sugar and eggs, pointed out the incident with flight attendants should be a cause of alarm.

"I think this is an eye opener. Like I said, instead of apples and grapes, airline crew gift their families with onions," the senator said, as per GMA News.

During the Christmas season, onion prices had hiked as much as P700 (approximately $12.7) per kilogram, as per the Philippine Star.

Also on Monday, Chito Chavez of the bakers group Asosasyon ng Panaderong Pilipino, said they are expecting cake and pastry prices to remain as bakeries try to work with the rising prices of raw materials such as sugar and eggs.

Chavez told ABS-CBN News that egg prices climbed from P155 (approximately $2.33) per tray in 2022 to P215 (approximately $3.93) this year, which led bakers to adjust their prices so they can still make small profits.

Sugar, on the other hand, posted an average price range of P90 (approximately $1.64) to P108 (approximately $1.97) per kilo as of last week.

Sugar farmers previously called on the government to help alleviate domestic production costs, instead of resorting to importation.

Onions and spices
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