BoC Cebu holds 144k sacks—not 1m—‘smuggled’ rice
CEBU CITY—Some 144,500 sacks of imported rice with an estimated value of P289 million were held by the Port of Cebu of the Bureau of Customs in consonance with the policy laid down by National Food Authority Administrator Jason Laureano Aquino.
Verne Enciso, officer-in-charge of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Services of the BoC Port of Cebu, said the shipments had arrived separately on March 1, 2, 19, 23 and 30, in violation of the Minimum Access Volume Program of the NFA.
That program stipulates the arrival period of rice importations for the year 2016 will be only until Feb. 28, 2017, except for rice importations from Pakistan and India, the deadline of which had been extended to March 31, 2017.
Enciso said the 144,500 bags of rice from Vietnam, Pakistan and Thailand were contained in 289 container vans, and consigned to Pilmico Foods Corp. and Matibay Multi-Purpose Cooperative.
“The absence of the NFA import permit makes the rice shipment as contraband shipment or smuggled,” Enciso said.
The CIIS-Cebu chief also denied earlier reports of at least one million bags of imported rice, mostly from Vietnam, supposedly sitting idle at the Cebu International Port since last March.
He said that with 500 sacks per container van at most, the CIP cannot possibly accommodate 2,000 container vans to reach that one million sack total.
The non-extension of the MAV program has created controversy within the NFA, resulting in the termination of Undersecretary Halmen Valdez of the Office of Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco, who chairs the NFA Council but opposes the non-extension of the MAV program.
In the previous administration, NFA chief Aquino was with the Intelligence Group of the BOC. With 15 others, they were either forced to resign or sacked by Customs Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence Jessie Dellosa because of “loss of trust and confidence” in them for allegedly receiving “tara” (grease money) from smugglers.
As the incumbent NFA chief, Aquino wants government-to-government or G2G rice importation, while Evasco, who chairs the NFA Council overseeing importation, prefers to do it through private traders. Neither official has commented on the issue at press time.
In his memorandum to Port of Cebu District Collector Elvira Cruz, Enciso recommended the issuance of a Warrant of Seizure and Detention on the shipments now being held at the Cebu International Port.