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Firm cries foul over smuggling tag in Davao

/ 07:45 PM October 29, 2013

DAVAO CITY—The lawyer of a rice importing firm whose shipments have been held by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) here chided the National Food Authority (NFA) for the unlawful seizure of their rice imports, and for the government agency’s “ignorance” of international trade laws.

Lawyer Benito Salazar, legal counsel of Starcraft International, whose 107 containers of rice imports were held at the BOC here on Monday for lack of an import permit, said rice importation no longer requires import permits after the country’s quantitative restrictions under the World Trade Organization (WTO)—General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) expired in June last year.

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Salazar said NFA officials, particularly NFA Administrator Orlan Calayag, should acquaint themselves better with rice importation laws because the NFA’s letters to his client “betray” their ignorance of international trade agreements.

He was reacting to Calayag’s earlier statement accusing Starcraft International and Silent Royalty Marketing of allegedly being involved in rice smuggling in Davao.

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Calayag had also asked the BOC to file charges against the alleged rice smugglers and those involved within the BOC.

“We take exception to the statements of the NFA and emphasize that all rice shipments of Starcraft International and Silent Royalty Marketing have been fully declared as rice,” Salazar said.

“There has been no misdeclaration of shipment, no attempt to hide anything,” he said.

Salazar said the NFA sent an Aug. 5 letter to Silent Royalty Marketing, requiring the company to submit receipts and explanations of its shipment in five days.

In the letter, Calayag warned that failure to submit an explanation would be deemed as a waiver of the company’s “right to be heard on the matter.” Calayag also threatened to submit the case to authorities “for appropriate action.”

But Salazar said the firm pointed out that the present regime of granting rice import quotas and the corresponding permit to import was based on the extension of the Philippines’ right to impose quantitative restrictions on rice. “That extension, however, expired in June 2012 and, as such, the country has no more legal right to impose QR on rice,” Salazar said.

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TAGS: Food security, General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, National Food Authority, News, Regions, rice, Smuggling, World Trade Organization
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