Customs bureau seizes P42M in smuggled rice, sugar

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Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon: Smugglers never learn. INQUIRER PHOTO/EDWIN BACASMAS

MANILA, Philippines—The Bureau of Customs (BOC) on Monday seized P42 million worth of smuggled rice and sugar at the Port of Manila, bringing to more than P1.27 billion the total amount of illegally imported agricultural products confiscated by the Department of Finance-attached agency in the last six months.

Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon said the value of the rice shipment, which arrived recently from Vietnam in 16 container vans, was estimated at P28 million.

The smuggled sugar from Thailand was estimated to be worth P14 million.

The shipments, both consigned to the trading firm Highest Regard Enterprises, had been misdeclared as steel frames and hinges in violation of the Tariffs and Customs Code of the Philippines.

“Smugglers never learn their lesson,” Biazon said in a statement. “But the Bureau of Customs will not stop teaching them a lesson if only to send the message that we are seriously pursuing the government’s antismuggling drive.”

The former Muntinlupa City legislator has repeatedly warned traders to comply with customs laws to avoid the consequences.

“If they continue to disregard our warnings and that would require us to seize smuggled goods every day, then we will do it,” Biazon said.

The BOC earlier ordered its Intelligence Group, headed by Deputy Commissioner Danilo Lim, to closely monitor rice and sugar shipments from what the BOC considers “high-risk” export countries like China, India, Vietnam and Taiwan.

In late April, the bureau seized what it considered its biggest haul of smuggled rice.

Cebu port authorities discovered 1,169 container vans of misdeclared Vietnamese rice shipments worth P1.2 billion.

The smuggled rice was “bigger in volume and value than the haul seized earlier at the Subic Bay Freeport in Zambales,” Lim said.

The rice shipment had been misdeclared as stone and granite slabs and cooling insulators.

At least eight trading firms, all based in Cebu City, were named by the BOC as consignees of the smuggled rice. They were JJM Global Trading, JM-ARS Trading, Neon Gateway Trading, Custans Enterprises, NMW Enterprises, Ocean Park Enterprises, Melma Enterprises and MMSM Trading.—Jerry E. Esplanada and Paolo G. Montecillo

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