Duterte cracks down on bad business practices

President Rodrigo Duterte will leave no stones unturned in his relentless drive to crack down on badbusiness practices of big businesses.

For instance, President Duterte, through the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), has ordered fast food giant Jollibee Foods to place around 6,500 staff on its regular payroll and demanded a refundworth 14.5 million pesos of “illegally collected” payments from over 400 employee. Jollibee, on other hand, said it complies with labor regulations, and would appeal the order. The DOLE said it will alsoconduct inspection on other fast-food companies such as KFC and McDonald’s.

President Duterte has also showed political muscle when he threatened to send tax auditors totelecommunications firms demanding payment for returning radio frequencies to government. This waslater resolved when businessmen returned the frequency to government for free.

The height of his strong-willed resolve to disrupt business-as- usual practices was shown when heordered the non-renewal of MIASCOR contract to manage and operate ground handling operations in airports following a luggage theft incident at the Clark International Airport in Pampanga.

While MIASCOR appealed for Duterte to reconsider, the President insisted on the termination of the 44-year-old company’s contract with Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), which runs the NinoyAquino International Airport. MIASCOR’s contract with Clark Airport was also cancelled while its other operations in the Kalibo and Davao airports were likewise not renewed.

Businessmen, especially those with huge concession agreements with government, are becoming wary and cautious about their practices since the assumption of President Duterte into office.

Thus, some transportation officials and analysts are now expressing some fear that the recent smuggling issues that hounded a port operator may impact its concession agreement with government.

In a recent statement, Bureau of Customs (BOC) disclosed that Asian Terminal Inc. (ATI) and and severalimporters and customs brokers are facing smuggling charges over the “illegal release” of containers worth over P69 million.

BOC accused officials of the Asian Terminal Incorporated (ATI) of conniving with importers and brokers to release 105 containers despite a standing alert order in March.
Also facing charges are the owners, officials, and customs brokers of Premiere Oak Lumber & Wood Products Corporation, Spectrum Highlands Marketing Corporation, Megaabundancesteel Indent Trading Corporation, Abundancegain Indent Trading Corporation, Paragon Platinum International Trading Corporation, and Imperialfoods and Agricultural Prod.

“The officers of the six corporations, with the assistance of their customs brokers and ATI all connived to secure the release of the containers from the ATI premises without the necessary examination” Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña said, noting all alerted shipments must pass an examination before they are released.

The BOC said the accused violated the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act of 2016, specifically the provisions of unlawful importation or exportation and removing goods from Customs’ custody.

Under the law, those found guilty face imprisonment of up to 40 years and a fine of up to P50 million.

Some analysts suspect, the long arm of the law and government may just caught up on ATI and take a huge bite on its concession to operate in the ports. They say ATI can suffer “ala MIASCOR” fate if it does not play its cards right.