Be wary of fake rice-import permits, NFA tells traders

The National Food Authority (NFA) on Wednesday revealed that three fake import permits for the 2017 minimum access volume (MAV) private-sector rice import scheme were sold to local traders and importers.

NFA Administrator Jason L.Y. Aquino said the Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC) brought to his attention the three import permits  supposedly issued by the food agency to the PITC. The PITC, a government-owned and -controlled corporation (GOCC) under the Department of Trade and Industry, wrote to the NFA last December 22 to verify the veracity of the import permits.

“The PITC has not applied for any rice-import permits with the NFA and neither authorized any party to apply for and in behalf of the PITC for such permits for 2017,” the GOCC said in its letter to the NFA.

Upon verification, Aquino said the three import permits were, indeed, spurious. In a letter-reply dated December 27, the NFA assured the PITC that an investigation on the matter will be conducted.

The three import permits covered a total of 42,000 metric tons (MT) of rice and were issued last August 24 and October 10. The ports of discharge were Davao for the 5,000 MT of imported rice and Cebu for the 7,000 MT. The third fake import permits for 30,000 MT of rice did not specify the port of discharge.

Aside from the fact that the NFA did not issue any of three import permits under the 2017 MAV rice-importation program, the agency also clarified that the scheduled arrival of rice imports under Phase 1 of the 2017 MAV was set for December 20, 2017 to February 28, and for Phase 2 imports should arrive between June 1 and August 31.

“Also, based on the NFA Council-approved guidelines, the import permit under the 2017 MAV rice-importation program has a validity period of only 15 calendar days from the date of issuance and not for one year as specified in the spurious import permits,” the NFA said in a statement.

The PITC said the fake import permits are being offered or sold by unscrupulous parties to traders and importers.

Republic Act 10845 (RA), or the “Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016,” classifies under Section 3 large-scale agricultural smuggling as economic sabotage. This includes “rice, with a minimum amount of P10 million, as valued by the Bureau of Customs, committed through any of the following acts: (a) Importing or bringing into the Philippines without the required import permit from the regulatory agencies; (b) Using import permits of persons, natural or juridical, other than those specifically named in the permit; and (c) Using fake, fictitious or fraudulent import permits or shipping documents.”

Under the section on penalties, Section 4 of RA 10845 specifies the penalty of life imprisonment and fine of twice the value of the smuggled agricultural product in addition to payment of taxes, duties and other charges against anyone found guilty of economic sabotage.

Any person or entity found guilty under the anti-agricultural smuggling law shall also suffer the penalty of perpetual absolute disqualification to engage in any business involving
importation.

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