CEBU CITY—At least 100 sacks of smuggled rice that had been seized and kept in container vans at the Cebu International Port (CIP) container yard have been lost to pilferage.
Cebu Customs collector Edward dela Cuesta on Thursday said the pilferage was discovered on Friday last week.
At least 500,000 sacks of rice seized by customs authorities are being kept in the CIP container yard, which is under the jurisdiction of the Cebu Port Authority (CPA).
Oscar Lopez of the CPA Port management department said in a phone interview that while the gate to the container yard is manned by security guards hired by the CPA, the customs bureau has its own guards at the gate.
No big deal?
Lopez said pilferage happens not only at the CIP but also in other ports. He declined to further comment.
Dela Cuesta said the pilferage case should prompt authorities to auction off the seized rice as soon as possible.
In a letter to Customs Commissioner Rufino Biazon dated on July 16, Dela Cuesta requested the immediate auction of the smuggled cargo.
He said his request for public auction is without prejudice to the letter of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala to Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima seeking a negotiated sale of the rice shipment on an agency-to-agency basis if two conditions would be met.
The conditions are, first, the price should be $700 per metric ton, and second, the port of Cebu should get proceeds from the sale.
Dela Cuesta said he has formed a team to investigate the pilferage.
He said customs authorities also invited representatives from the security agencies of the CIP and the Oriental Port and Allied Services Corp., the company that provides cargo handling and other services at the port, to be members of the investigating team.
The seized smuggled rice, with an estimated value of P1.2 billion, came from Vietnam and arrived at the Cebu port between March 18 and April 2.
The 1,194 container vans of smuggled rice were misdeclared as stone slabs, ceiling insulator slabs, granite slabs and wall insulator slabs.
Customs officials earlier identified the eight consignees of the smuggled rice shipment as JJM Global Trading, with address at Room No. 212 Crown Building, North Reclamation Area, Cebu; JM-ARS Trading, 308 Crown Building, North Reclamation Area, Cebu; Neon Gateway Trading, Sta. Rosa, Poblacion, Alegria, Cebu; Custans Enterprises, 3H Gemini Building, MJ Cuenco Ave., Cebu; Melma Enterprises, Room No. 201, GK Chua Building, MJ Cuenco Street, Cebu; NMW Enterprises, Marigondon, Lapu-Lapu City; Ocean Park Enterprises and MMSM Trading.
In June, the customs bureau held an auction of part of the smuggled cargo.