Customs to bid out 420,000 sacks of rice from India
MANILA, Philippines—The Bureau of Customs will be bidding out the 420,000 sacks of rice from India seized from the Subic Freeport, which has also been subject of a Senate hearing.
Commissioner Rufino “Ruffy” Biazon told lawmakers this during a joint hearing by the House committees on agriculture and food security on the said issue Tuesday, pointing out that they were preparing to publish the bidding notice within the day. He said the proceeds coming from the sale will be determined when legal issues on the confiscated rice are resolved.
Biazon said that if the firm claiming the rice wins the legal battle, “the money will be turned over to them, if BOC wins, the national government gets the money.” He then assured the committees that the “importer is not allowed to bid (as per) rules designed to ensure no bidders come from the interested party.”
The seized sacks of rice, amounting to P450 million, has been priced at P1,100 per cavan for bidding by the National Food Authority upon evaluation of its quality, he said. The BOC is targeting to have the rice bid out by October 17 since “nagsisimula nang magdeteriorate ang rice (rice is starting to deteriorate). Rather than lose its quality, we can proceed with the auction now.”
Another issue raised during the hearing was whether the government could consider making NFA the sole authority in the importation of rice.
Muntinlupa City Representative Rodolfo Biazon also suggested that the government consider assigning specific ports of entry for imported rice to tighten its watch on smuggling. “If we let them come in wherever they want to, it would be hard to control them. If we designate ports per region it would be easy to monitor the [smuggling activities],” said Biazon in Filipino.
But when pressed by House committee on agriculture and food, Batangas Representative Mark Liandro Mendoza, to just donate the rice to the NFA for distribution and also for protection of local farmers, the customs chief that the bidding process was necessary under the law.
Butil Partylist Representative Agapito Guanlao, chairman of the House special committee on food security, insisted that the NFA should get the rice instead of importing for the government’s rice buffer stocks.
Biazon however said the NFA could also join the bidding and if bidding on the rice fails twice, he pointed out that the BOC will then be allowed to donate the rice.
“We have to go on bidding. (In the case of) two failed biddings we can donate but we still have to go through the process as stated in the law,” he maintained.
“If the NFA decided to buy it, it still has to go through bidding.”
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