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SC refuses to release almost 300,000 bags of rice

/ 02:48 PM May 01, 2014

The Supreme Court building in Manila. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court has refused to release almost 300,000 bags of allegedly smuggled rice seized by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in separate areas around the country even if the goods are ‘perishable.’

In a resolution, the high court denied the separate urgent motions and/or manifestations filed by rice traders Joseph Mangupag Ngo, Danilo Galang of St. Hildegard Grains Enterprises and Ivy Souza of Bold Bidder Marketing and General Merchandise.

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The rice traders told the high court that the rice are highly perishable and “[their] prolonged detention by the BOC will result in [their] deterioration, spoilage and wastage.”

The importers offered to post a bond equivalent to the value of the rice shipments as assessed by the BOC and also to pay the tariff rate of 50 percent for out-quota rice importations and other Customs imposed fees, charges and assessments.

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But the high court, in its ruling, said the BOC “may proceed, as it may deem proper to the best advantage of the government, and undertake such procedures with regard to the subject rice shipments in its custody pursuant to the Tariff and Customs Code.”

The high court said it “cannot, with stronger reason, allow the release of the rice shipments to the said respondents because the Office of the Solicitor General disputes their ownership of the same.”

A total of 189,540 bags of rice imported by Galang and Souza were seized by the BOC last year for failure to show proper documents.

Galang filed a petition with the Manila Regional Trial Court to question the seizure.

In his petition, Galang said the Philippines is a signatory of the World Trade Organization General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (WTO-GATT), which had lifted the country’s special treatment on quantitative rice restrictions effective June 30, 2012. The Manila Court ruled in his favor prompting the BOC to go to the Supreme Court.

On the other hand, Ngo’s rice shipment stemmed from entering an agreement with Starcraft International Trading Corporation where he initially purchased 15 shipments containing 91,800 bags of white rice.
The BOC seized the rice because it has no import permits from the National Food Authority (NFA).

Ngo filed a case before the Davao court who ruled in his favor. The BOC filed a motion for reconsideration but was dismissed, prompting them to take the case to the Supreme Court.

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TAGS: Bureau of Customs, rice, smuggled rice, Supreme Court
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