100 sacks of smuggled rice stolen at Cebu port
CEBU CITY—Around 100 sacks of smuggled rice kept in container vans at the Cebu International Port container yard have been stolen.
Cebu Customs Collector Edward Dela Cuesta said on Thursday that the pilferage occurred on Friday last week. However, the number of sacks stolen was minimal compared with estimated 500,000 sacks of confiscated smuggled rice awaiting public auction, Dela Cuesta said in a telephone interview.
Dela Cuesta said the Cebu Port Authority was in charge of the container yard where the rice was being kept. However, Oscar Lopez, manager of CPA Port Management Department, said that while the gate to the container yard is manned by security guards hired by the CPA, the Customs bureau also has its own security personnel at the gate.
Dela Cuesta said the public auction of the rice should be done as soon as possible.
In a memorandum for Customs Commissioner Rozzano Rufino Biazon dated July 16, Dela Cuesta requested that the forfeited rice be disposed of immediately through public auction in light of the pilferage.
He explained that his request for public auction was without prejudice to the letter of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala to Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima proposing a negotiated sale on an agency-to-agency basis if two conditions would be met.
The conditions are, first, the offered price of $350 per metric ton be increased to $700, and second, the proceeds of the negotiated sale be credited to the Port of Cebu, according to Dela Cuesta.
Dela Cuesta said he has formed a team headed by the Cebu Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service to investigate the pilferage.
He said they also invited representatives from the security agencies of the CIP and the Oriental Port and Allied Services Corp. (Opascor), the company that provides cargo handling and others services at the port, to be members of the investigating team.
The seized imported 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 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 St., Cebu; NMW Enterprises, Marigondon, Lapu-Lapu City; Ocean Park Enterprises; and MMSM Trading.
In June, Customs held an auction for part of the rice shipments. Four rice retailers, ETB Agro, Dragon Grains, Angel Gabriel Milling, and MNPS General Merchandise, won the bidding held at the Bureau of Customs office in Cebu.
Their winning bid of at least P40 million was higher than the P35-million floor price for 22,574 sacks of rice, which was set by the National Food Authority.