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Coin Shortage May be Economic Sabatoge
« on: October 28, 2008, 11:48:03 PM »
Coin Shortage May be Economic Sabatoge
By Richard Giedroyc, World Coin News
October 27, 2008

Recent coin shortages in India, People's Republic of China, and other countries have been covered in some depth recently in this column. The biggest problem causing these coinage shortages appears to be the intrinsic value of the coins that are in short supply, their scrap value having risen to a greater value than is their legal tender value.

One of the latest casualties of this ongoing problem is the Philippines, where on Aug. 28 the National Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Customs, Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group, and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Central Bank of the Philippines) jointly seized a 40-foot container destined for South Korea. Inside the container were 15 bags containing about 17.9 tons of 1-peso coins dating from 1995 to 2003. Although the metal composition of the denomination has been more recently changed these coins are still legal tender, however as scrap metal they are worth more than their 30 million pesos face value (about $666,000 US).

NBI Deputy Director for Intelligence Services Ruel Lasala explained to the Aug. 28 Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper, "The 1995 to 2003 series contain 75 percent copper and 25 percent nickel. The new 1-peso coins are nickel-covered."

According to Lasala, "Some unscrupulous groups apparently asked banks or other organizations to change their bills into coins. They later sold these to prospective buyers, who would then smuggle the coins out of the country. These shipments were often mis-declared as metal scraps."

Lasala explained that in South Korea the coins would have been used to make computer microchips, tokens, or bullets.

Task Force Chief Undersecretary Antonio Villar explained the true ramifications of such smuggling, stating in an Aug. 28 television interview, "This is economic sabotage because we will soon be running out of coins."

Villar pointed out the smuggling of these coins is against Philippine laws regarding the export of coins, adding "[Smuggling Philippine 1-peso coins is] apparently more economical than mining the metals."

Villar indicated the raid didn't come on the spur of the moment. Informants had told the joint task force that a crime syndicate has been smuggling the coins on a weekly basis. Bank employees who exchanged Philippine bank notes for coins for the smugglers are among those individuals being investigated.

Jimmy Perez is a spokesman for the government's anti-smuggling task force. He told Agence France-Press Aug. 29 that no arrests had been made as of that date, however Amphibian Metal is being investigated. The raid took place at the warehouse of Asian Terminal Inc. at Manila South Harbor.

Lasala added through his Aug. 28 Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper interview, "Its [Amphibian Metal] owners could face charges for economic sabotage because the illegal activity could lead to an artificial shortage of coins. They could also be charged for violating central bank provisions on the import and export of Philippine currency."

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