‘Hot’ rice seized by BOC to feed disaster victims


MANILA, Philippines—The Bureau of Customs (BOC) has turned over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) some 94,000 50-kilogram bags of smuggled Vietnamese rice the BOC seized in mid-July at the Subic Freeport in Zambales.

This was disclosed to the Inquirer Thursday by Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon, who said the “hot rice,” estimated to be worth over P110 million, will most likely be used by the DSWD in its humanitarian programs following natural calamities.

In a text message, the former Muntinlupa City legislator also said the BOC had sold for P487 million the 420,000 bags of Indian white rice it had seized in August at the Subic port. He did not identify the buyer of the smuggled rice.

Biazon called the shipment the bureau’s “biggest smuggled rice haul.”

In a statement issued earlier, he said there was “clearly a grand design to illegally slip the 420,000 bags of imported white rice into the country as not only was the importation undocumented, its consignees also tried to make it appear that it was a transshipment originally bound for Indonesia.”

Biazon said the cargo ship Vinalines Mighty sailed into the Subic port on April 4, carrying the shipment for its consignee, Metro Eastern Trading Corp., which failed to produce the required documents for rice importation, such as the allocation and import permits from the National Food Authority.

Deputy Commissioner Danilo Lim, head of the BOC intelligence office, said reports indicated that the vessel carrying the Indian rice had been in Subic Bay for at least a month before it unloaded the shipment at the free port.

Reports reaching the BOC said the real consignee of the rice shipment was an India-based firm, Amira Foods International DMCC, and that the shipment was originally intended for Jakarta, Indonesia.

On Thursday, Biazon said the bureau was preparing to auction off another 94,000 bags of Vietnamese rice confiscated in mid-September at the Port of Legazpi in Albay.

The hot rice, said to be worth at least P112 million, arrived on board the cargo ship Minh Tuan 68.

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