MANILA, Philippines-With nearly P2 billion worth of smuggled rice seized by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in the past eight months, Commissioner Rufino Biazon has directed the bureau’s Intelligence Group, as well as its revenue collection districts nationwide, to “increase the tempo of operations” against the illegal importation of the staple.
Biazon also called for the stricter monitoring of rice shipments from what the Department of Finance-attached agency refers to as “high-risk” countries for rice smuggling.
The former Muntinlupa City legislator was referring to Vietnam, India, Taiwan and China, among other countries.
In a text message to the Inquirer on Sunday, he said he had given instructions to the intel group and port collectors to expedite the operation against rice smugglers.
“As long as smugglers lurk in customs, this social and economic menace would be far from over,” Biazon said.
As this developed, the militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) dared Biazon to “name, shame and charge with economic sabotage” not just the traders behind the illegal importation of P1.2 billion worth of Vietnamese rice but also their alleged government protectors.
Last week, the BOC named the eight consignees of the smuggled rice as the following Cebu-based firms: JJM Global Trading, JM-ARS Trading, Neon Gateway Trading, Custans Enterprises, Melma Enterprises, NMW Enterprises, Ocean Park Enterprises and MMSM Trading.
In a statement, KMP secretary general Antonio Flores said the alleged rice smugglers “seem to be untouchables enjoying protection from corrupt government officials.”
Flores urged the government to distribute the confiscated rice to victims of Tropical Storm “Pablo” and the “poorest of the poor” instead of offering it up for public bidding.
P1.2 billion in smuggled rice
Customs Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence Danilo Lim announced on Thursday they had discovered P1.2 billion worth of smuggled rice misdeclared as stone and granite slabs and cooling insulators in 1,169 containers from Vietnam.
The former Army general said the shipment, seized at the Port of Cebu, was bigger than the much-publicized smuggled rice confiscated at the Subic Freeport in Zambales late last year.
The estimated number of sacks seized could reach 600,000, according to Lim.
Last month, the BOC seized P10 million worth of smuggled Taiwanese rice, misdeclared as wall insulators, also at the Port of Cebu.
In a statement, Biazon said the consignees of the smuggled rice—ARFG Trading and Cargo Facilities and JBD Trading, both located at Mandaue City—would not only be blacklisted but would also be charged in court along with their brokers.
Early this year, Lim led a customs team in the seizure of 94,000 bags of smuggled Vietnamese rice worth at least P135 million, which were transported to Legazpi City by the vessel MV Minh Tuan.
He identified two of the alleged erring cooperatives as Malipampang Concerned Citizens and Samahan ng Magsasakang Kapampangan at Katagalugan.