BOC finds overpriced, imported rice in 2 warehouses

By: Marlon Ramos, Tina G. Santos - Philippine Daily Inquirer | September 18,2023 - 06:40 PM

Sacks of smuggles rice kept in a warehouse were confiscated by the Bureau of Customs.

A joint inspection led by the Bureau of Customs (BOC), Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS), Enforcement and Security Service (ESS), Port of Manila (POM), Legal Service, Philippine Coast Guard, and brgy officials was conducted in two warehouses—one in Pulang Lupa, Las Piñas, and another in Bacoor, Cavite—on Thursday, September 14, 2023. | PHOTO: Official Facebook page Bureau of Customs PH

Authorities inspected warehouses in Las Piñas City and Cavite suspected of storing smuggled rice and selling it above the prescribed price range.

According to the Bureau of Customs (BOC), rice products from Vietnam, Thailand, and China, with an estimated value of P40 million, were found inside two warehouses located in Las Piñas and Bacoor, Cavite, during the inspection.

The BOC said it carried out extensive investigation, surveillance, and test purchases prior to the inspection.

ALSO READ: Easing rice import tariffs better option than price caps – FEB

During the investigation, it was discovered that the trader was selling a 25-kilogram sack of Vietnamese Rice for P1,320 in the market, equivalent to P52.8 per kg.

“This price significantly exceeded the Department of Agriculture’s prescribed range of P41-45 per kilo for well-milled and regular-milled rice,” the BOC said in a statement.

But the warehouse owner claimed that they were just traders and not importers, so Customs agents told the owner to provide proof of payment of correct duties and taxes from their supplier or importer.

15 days to validate

Authorities granted the owner a 15-day period to submit documentation to validate the legality of the importation of the subject sacks of rice, and payment of correct duties and taxes.

But Sen. Francis Escudero said law enforcers should not stop at seizing rice found to be imported and sold illegally.

ALSO READ: House sets P2-billion aid to ease impact of rice price cap

“We should not be content with just doing raids … We should bring them to the court of justice to prove that this administration is resolute in its campaign against rice cartel,” Escudero said in a statement.

File cases

He said the BOC must file appropriate cases against individuals allegedly facilitating the unlawful entry of rice and hoarding the food staple, which results in an increase in its retail price.

“Why haven’t I heard anyone [being] sued for economic sabotage?” Escudero pointed out. “Who owns these warehouses? Who are the people involved?”

Under Republic Act No. 10845, or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016, he noted that individuals suspected of involvement in large-scale smuggling of agricultural products may be held liable for economic sabotage.

The senator issued the statement after the BOC announced a separate operation where it confiscated 42,180 sacks of rice, worth some P42 million, in Zamboanga City.

Led by Speaker Martin Romualdez, the BOC also inspected last month several warehouses in Bulacan province that were believed to be hoarding smuggled rice.

According to Escudero, the BOC should make public the names and identities of the traders who own and operate the warehouses.

ALSO READ: Biz group urges lifting of rice price cap after 2 to 3 weeks

After filing the appropriate charges, the government must provide updates on the status of the cases “in the spirit of transparency,” he added.

In addition, he said, the BOC and other state agencies involved in confiscating smuggled rice should explain how the seized items were being kept.“Who oversees [its] disposition and how will it be disposed? What will they do with the confiscated rice?” he asked. 

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TAGS: BOC, Cavite, imported rice, Las Piñas, smuggled, warehouse
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