After sugar, smuggled rice seized
MANILA, Philippines–As the Bureau of Customs expanded its investigation into missing smuggled sugar in Zamboanga City, a joint BOC-Philippine Army team seized some 6,000 sacks of smuggled rice in Zamboanga Sibugay last Thursday.
The BOC’s Public Information and Assistance Division (PIAD) said on Monday the illegally imported rice was intercepted on Jan. 15 in Barangay (village) Logpong in Tungawan town.
“The sacks were on the vessel ML Tawi-Tawi and came from Sulu bound for (an undisclosed port in) northern Mindanao,” the PIAD said.
Middle of controversy
The seized rice was brought to the Port of Zamboanga “under guard by customs personnel” led by controversial BOC-Zamboanga City district collector Miguel Pio Saquisami.
Last week, Saquisami found himself in the middle of controversy after it was discovered that out of 1,171 sacks of smuggled Malaysian sugar confiscated by the Philippine Coast Guard and the local police, only 326 sacks remained in the BOC’s custody.
Customs Deputy Commissioner for the Intelligence Group Jessie Dellosa said customs investigators learned that Saquisami had commissioned eight trucks to transport the seized sugar from the Zamboanga City port to the BOC warehouse on Jan. 7.
Only three trucks reached the warehouse, however. The rest, carrying 845 sacks, had disappeared.
“I was informed it was (Saquisami) who commissioned the trucks. Incidentally, the trucks were also owned by the owner of the seized sugar,” Dellosa had told reporters.
Customs Commissioner John Phillip Sevilla had ordered an investigation into the disappearance of the sugar.
Both Sevilla and Dellosa were “not taking this incident sitting down,” Charo Logarta-Lagamon, the PIAD chief, said.
The two officials “have been in touch with (Zamboanga City) Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar and the BOC’s law enforcement partners in the area,” Logarta-Lagamon told the Inquirer.
Another customs official had disclosed that Saquisami was “reprimanded (by both Sevilla and Dellosa) and asked to explain” the missing sugar.
Salazar had rushed to the BOC office in Zamboanga City to confront Saquisami after she was told the bureau had only 326 sacks of sugar in its custody. The sugar was confiscated from the vessel ML Ylaiza Maye V in Barangay Bolong.
An inventory conducted by the Coast Guard and the Philippine National Police showed that 1,171 sacks of sugar were confiscated, she noted.
“Now, it’s 326. What happened?” Salazar said, adding that she did not believe Saquisami’s explanation. She said she called for an inquiry into the alleged irregularity.
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