BOC finds overpriced, imported rice in 2 warehouses
Authorities inspected warehouses in Las Piñas City and Cavite suspected of storing smuggled rice and selling it above the prescribed price range.
According to the Bureau of Customs (BOC), rice products from Vietnam, Thailand, and China, with an estimated value of P40 million, were found inside two warehouses located in Las Piñas and Bacoor, Cavite, during the inspection.
The BOC said it carried out extensive investigation, surveillance, and test purchases prior to the inspection.
During the investigation, it was discovered that the trader was selling a 25-kilogram sack of Vietnamese Rice for P1,320 in the market, equivalent to P52.8 per kg.
“This price significantly exceeded the Department of Agriculture’s prescribed range of P41-45 per kilo for well-milled and regular-milled rice,” the BOC said in a statement.
But the warehouse owner claimed that they were just traders and not importers, so Customs agents told the owner to provide proof of payment of correct duties and taxes from their supplier or importer.
15 days to validate
Authorities granted the owner a 15-day period to submit documentation to validate the legality of the importation of the subject sacks of rice, and payment of correct duties and taxes.
But Sen. Francis Escudero said law enforcers should not stop at seizing rice found to be imported and sold illegally.
“We should not be content with just doing raids … We should bring them to the court of justice to prove that this administration is resolute in its campaign against rice cartel,” Escudero said in a statement.
He said the BOC must file appropriate cases against individuals allegedly facilitating the unlawful entry of rice and hoarding the food staple, which results in an increase in its retail price.
“Why haven’t I heard anyone [being] sued for economic sabotage?” Escudero pointed out. “Who owns these warehouses? Who are the people involved?”
Under Republic Act No. 10845, or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016, he noted that individuals suspected of involvement in large-scale smuggling of agricultural products may be held liable for economic sabotage.
The senator issued the statement after the BOC announced a separate operation where it confiscated 42,180 sacks of rice, worth some P42 million, in Zamboanga City.
Led by Speaker Martin Romualdez, the BOC also inspected last month several warehouses in Bulacan province that were believed to be hoarding smuggled rice.
According to Escudero, the BOC should make public the names and identities of the traders who own and operate the warehouses.
After filing the appropriate charges, the government must provide updates on the status of the cases “in the spirit of transparency,” he added.
In addition, he said, the BOC and other state agencies involved in confiscating smuggled rice should explain how the seized items were being kept.“Who oversees [its] disposition and how will it be disposed? What will they do with the confiscated rice?” he asked. INQ