DAGUPAN CITY—Agriculture sector leaders on Friday said the government needs to work harder after customs officials seized Vietnam rice shipments worth P1.2 billion that were slipped through a Cebu port this week.
Rosendo So, chair of the party-list group Abono, said, “We are happy,” when asked about the rice shipments that were misdeclared as stones and slabs of granite. The shipments belonged to eight consignees.
“[But] rice smuggling
[has been] rampant for the past months,” So said. “We hope that this is not just for show.”
“About 1,100 containers of rice entered the country illegally but only 100 [have been] seized. It is good that they got a big haul now but we hope there will be a series of confiscation of smuggled products for the sake of local producers,” So told the Inquirer by telephone.
He claimed that the Bureau of Customs (BOC) had been curtailing efforts by the country’s food producers and retailers to help the government thwart smuggling.
“For instance, we asked for copies of the Inward Foreign Manifests. [These are] international documents that provide details and quantitative values of products borne by cargo ships [that dock in] in the country but until now the Bureau of Customs refuses to give us copies,” So said.
He said the BOC could share this information with the Department of Agriculture, which also has a stake in imported food products.
He said smugglers also react quickly to government action and have been able to trade illegally in other products once a smuggled commodity draws the attention of government inspectors.
“If the focus is on rice, they smuggle pork and chicken products, onions and vegetables. Then, if the focus is on meat, they jump onto other products. It’s a never ending cycle of smuggling,” he said. Yolanda Sotelo, Inquirer Northern Luzon