THE Customs bureau said it recently conducted a string of raids on various warehouses keeping smuggled rice.
In a statement on Sunday, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) said a joint inspection with other government agencies led to the seizure of P40-million worth of imported rice from Vietnam, Thailand and China.
The raids were conducted last September 14 on a warehouse in Pulang Lupa, Las Pinas, and another warehouse 16 kilometers northeast in Bacoor, Cavite.
According to the BOC, its investigation revealed a trader was selling a 25-kilo sack of Vietnamese Rice for P1,320 in the market, equivalent to P52.8 per kilo.
“This price significantly exceeded the Department of Agriculture’s prescribed range of P41 to P45 per [kilogram] for well-milled and regular-milled rice,” the BOC said.
The BOC explained that the raid took “extensive” investigation, surveillance and test purchases. The joint raid was done by the BOC with the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS), Enforcement and Security Service (ESS), Port of Manila (POM), Legal Service, Philippine Coast Guard and barangay officials.
The Customs bureau said the warehouse owners argued they were not importers but rice traders.
“In response, Customs operatives requested the owner to provide proof of payment of correct duties and taxes from their supplier or importer,” the BOC said.
“Authorities granted the owner a 15-day period to submit the necessary documentation to validate the legality of the importation of the subject sacks of rice and payment of correct duties and taxes due thereon,” the BOC added.
In an earlier development, the BOC also seized P42-million worth of 42,180 sacks of smuggled rice in Zamboanga City. The BOC is looking at donating the forfeited rice stocks to the national government.
The BOC discovered discrepancies in the import documents submitted by the rice importer. First, the imported rice stocks were not covered by required sanitary and phytosanitary import clearance from the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI). Second, the goods were declared as “White Rice 15-percent broken” but they were found to be “Jasmine fragrant rice” after examination by customs personnel.
The BOC added that on September 1, the Port of Zamboanga issued an “Order of Forfeiture” against the subject sacks of rice for violation of Section 1113 (f) in relation to Section 117 of Republic Act (RA) 10863, otherwise known as the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, the Rice Tariffication Law, and RA 10845, otherwise known as the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling law.