BOC chief: We also like to know who David Tan is | Inquirer News
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BOC chief: We also like to know who David Tan is

Customs Commissioner John Phillip Sevilla. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Saying that the Bureau of Customs (BOC) lacks information about “David Tan,” newly appointed Customs Commissioner John Phillip Sevilla on Tuesday said that the bureau “also would like to know who David Tan is,” the alleged Goliath of rice smuggling whose illegal activities have cost the government P7 billion in lost revenue in the past two years.

But Sevilla, a former finance undersecretary, said “the fact that we do not know who he is will not stop us from going after rice smugglers.”

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In a news conference at the BOC headquarters in Port Area, Manila, Sevilla said the bureau was “100-percent committed to address the rice-smuggling problem.”

“We’re not getting fixated on David Tan …. We don’t know if there’s really a David Tan,” he said.

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However, Sevilla disclosed they “know who the consignees are” of the more than 1,930 containers of illegally imported rice that the bureau seized recently in the ports of Manila, Cebu, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Batangas and Manila International Container Port.

The shipments of smuggled rice were worth more than P700 million, he said.

Going after consignees

“And we’re going after them,” Sevilla announced, adding “on top of my head, there are about 20 to 25 consignees of the smuggled rice,” which are worth more than P700 million.

For his part, Deputy Customs Commissioner for Intelligence Jessie Dellosa said “of the 1,937 containers of smuggled rice being held by the bureau, a total of 411 containers have been abandoned by their supposed consignees.”

“If these containers are not claimed after 30 days, they will be considered government property,” he said.

Davao judge order

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Dellosa told Alyansa Agrikultura that the BOC was scheduled to release this week the rice shipment seized in Davao because of an injunction that Judge Emmanuel Carpio of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Davao City issued last Dec. 13, compelling the BOC to do this.

Alyansa Agrikultura, a coalition of 42 farmer-fisherfolk federations and organizations, said the release of the Davao shipment may set a precedent for the release of the rest of the seized shipments.

No valid basis

Releasing the smuggled shipment had no valid basis, said Ernesto Ordoñez, Alyansa Agrikultura chair.

Ordoñez said releasing the shipment would set back the antismuggling campaign, depress rice prices, harm farmers’ livelihood and jeopardize the country’s efforts to achieve food security.

He said the court injunction issued by the Davao City RTC had no valid basis because it stated that all rice shipments after June 30, 2012, did not need import permits, were not smuggled and therefore should be released.

However, the Department of Agriculture has the approval of the World Trade Organization for the extension of rice import restrictions.

Unmasking Tan

Dellosa, a former Armed Forces chief of staff, has expressed willingness to cooperate with the Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI) in unmasking Tan.

Jesus Arranza, chair of FPI, which groups some 800 companies nationwide, on Monday told a media forum that he would see Justice Secretary Leila de Lima shortly to turn over information about Tan.

The FPI head claimed David Tan was the alias of “a certain Davidson Tan Bangayan,” a Chinese-Filipino from Davao City.

Tan is reportedly wanted in Davao, with the city’s Mayor Rodrigo Duterte himself tracking him down and vowing to prosecute him.

Arranza described Davidson Tan Bangayan as a “former scrap metal trader from Davao City before going into rice smuggling.”

He later told the Inquirer that there was a “high probability” that the David Tan mentioned in a series of rice smuggling-related stories published in the Inquirer and the Davidson Tan Bangayan he was referring to were one and the same person.

Common knowledge

Arranza said the operations of David Tan, “Big Mama” and “Ma’am T,” among other big-time traders doing business with the BOC, were “common knowledge” among FPI members.

“Apparently, some players (during the previous administrations) are still at Customs. It means they’re good,” he said as he urged the Senate to continue looking into Tan’s rice-smuggling activities.

Foregone revenue

The Inquirer earlier reported that Tan’s operations were costing the government at least P7 billion in lost revenues each year.

His operations have also caused losses to local farmers, whose rice is shunned by millers who prefer to deal with Tan because his rice, although illegally imported, is cheaper and already milled.

In the past two years, Tan had given as much as P6 billion in payoffs to BOC officials and employees who had facilitated rice smuggling through the ports, according to a former BOC official.

 Originally posted: 6:09 pm | Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

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TAGS: Bureau of Customs, Crime, David Tan, government investigation, John Phillip Sevilla, law and justice, News, rice smuggling, Smuggling
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