Trader cries foul over smuggler tag
A rice trader cried foul over an allegation made by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) that he was behind the unlawful importation of at least 200 containers of Thai rice, insisting that his transactions were legal.
Jomerito “Jojo” Soliman, owner of Sta. Rosa Farm Products, was recently charged, along with other officials of the company, with allegedly violating Section 1401 of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act and Republic Act No. 10845 or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act.
In a statement, Soliman belied reports that the 100,000 sacks of Thai rice he imported were smuggled.
He claimed that he had been transparent in his dealings and even made his intent to import rice known in letters to government agencies following President Rodrigo Duterte’s public pronouncements last April that he would lift the quantitative restriction (QR) on imported rice.
QR limits the volume of rice that the Philippines could import under a schedule set by the World Trade Organization (WTO). It was meant to protect the Philippine rice industry as the country complies with tariff-free agreements in WTO.
Not the bad guy
“Our company immediately responded and committed to help the government bring in more rice and bring down prices for the benefit of consumers,” Soliman said in a statement.
“And despite our efforts to coordinate with appropriate government agencies — all backed by documents — our rice imports were seized. This is not very encouraging to rice traders,” he added.
Soliman said the Thai rice he imported were seized by the BOC and were later auctioned off even before the expiration of
the prescribed period for appeal.
The BOC earlier said that the 200 containers of rice arrived from Thailand at Manila International Container Port (MICP) without import permits.
On July 13, at least 150 of 200 containers of rice imported by Soliman’s company were ordered forfeited by the BOC in favor of the government.
The 50 other containers were declared abandoned by lawyer Vener Baquiran, MICP district collector.
Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña ordered the seized rice shipments auctioned off and released from BOC ports to help boost supply and lower prices.
The BOC generated more than P177 million from the auction.
In April, the President announced he was in favor of scrapping the quota system in rice importation and allowing the importation of rice with tariffs.
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