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P289M shipments no NFA permit: Customs holds ‘smuggled’ rice

Being one of the busiest ports in the country, Cebu International Port also becomes a venue for some unscrupulous people to sneak in contrabands. Jay Rommel Labra

CEBU, Philippines - An estimated P289 million worth of rice shipments from Vietnam, Pakistan, and Thailand were held by the Bureau of Customs at the Cebu International Port for lack of permit from the National Food Authority.

Verne Enciso, officer-in-charge of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Services-Cebu, said the shipments were consigned to Pilmico Foods Corporation; Hutchison 1 Logistics Inc.; Awards Cargo Agency Phils. Inc.; and Matibay Multi-Purpose Cooperative.

"The absence of the NFA import permit makes the rice shipment as contraband shipment or smuggled. Continuing ang pag-verify ng office natin on the arrival of rice shipments without the required NFA permit," said Enciso.

The 144,000 bags of rice shipments arrived at the CIP on March 1, 2, 7, and 8 in 289x20-footer container vans. Most of the shipments consigned to Pilmico Foods Corporation came from Vietnam and Pakistan. There were also 34x30-footer container vans consigned to Matibay Multi-Purpose Cooperative that came from Thailand.

Enciso said he has recommended to BOC-Cebu district collector Elvira Cruz the issuance of Warrant of Seizure and Detention. Cruz, however, said she could not immediately issue the WSD without subjecting the shipments to abandonment proceedings.

The shipments, however, will not be converted into government revenue because of the existing Executive Order mandating that all seized rice shipment shall be donated to the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

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"So, once it will (be) confiscated in favor of the government hindi yan magiging revenue ng Customs," Enciso said.

NFA administrator Jason Aquino earlier issued a notice to all rice importers that all importations under the Minimum Access Volume program ended on February 28.  The notice dated February 20 was sent to Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon for appropriate action. The commissioner issued a memorandum on March 7 directing all district collectors to seize rice shipment except from Pakistan and India.

The non-extension of the Minimum Access Volume program has created controversy within the NFA resulting in the termination of Undersecretary Halmen Valdez.

Valdez was under the Office of Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco, chairman of the NFA Council, who opposed the non-extension of the MAV program.

But despite the non-extension of the MAV program, Aquino himself issued three import permits beyond February 28. According to information, he allowed rice importations from Vietnam by JVV Ex/Import, Kakampi Multi-Purpose Cooperative and Villa Shipping Lines Inc.   Enciso said that part of the shipment arrived in Cebu last week of March. However, only 19,000 bags of the 61,600 bags were discharged from the vessel.

"Yung vessel hindi siya naka-docked but yung discharging niya is via shipside discharging thru a barge," Enciso said.

He said they could not confiscate the shipment since it has import permit from NFA.

"This is the shipment na sinasabi ni Usec Valdez na binigyan ng permit ni Aquino tapos yung iba hindi binigyan," Enciso said.

Aquino used to be with the Bureau of Customs as chief of staff of Customs Deputy Commissioner Jesse Dellosa but was terminated because of his alleged involvement in the ‘tara’ system. (FREEMAN)

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