BOC doubles down on warehouse raids vs rice smugglers

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BOC doubles down on warehouse raids vs rice smugglers
Customs commissioner Bienvenido Rubio said the agency is intensifying efforts to go after hoarders and illegal importers of rice. Photo from the Presidential Communications Office.
  • The Bureau of Customs is doubling down on efforts to hunt down illegal importers of agricultural goods
  • This is after President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. in a multi-sectoral meeting in Malacañang on August 29 directed the agency to continue raiding warehouses suspected of storing illegal rice imports
  • From January to July 2023, BOC has recorded a total of 2.257 million metric tons of imported rice, down from the 2.675 million mt in the same period last year
  • From January to August 26, duties and taxes collected from rice imports reached P16.8 billion
  • BOC on August 24 inspected three warehouses in Bulacan suspected of smuggling 202,000 sacks of imported rice worth P505 million

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) is doubling down on efforts to hunt down illegal importers of agricultural goods, especially rice, after President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. in a multi-sectoral meeting in Malacañang on August 29 ordered the agency to continue raiding warehouses suspected of storing illegal rice imports.

BOC commissioner Bienvenido Rubio in a press briefing on the same day said the bureau will validate all warehouses storing imported rice and check whether correct duties and taxes were paid on the goods.

These inspections will be coordinated with the Department of Agriculture and Department of Trade and Industry, Rubio added.

He vowed to file cases against persons involved in the release from customs custody of smuggled rice and coordinate closely with the Department of Justice to fast track filing of cases against smugglers.

The price of rice has been increasing since last year, with some sectors pointing to smugglers and hoarders as the culprit. Marcos during the election period had promised to bring down the price of rice to P20 per kilo. Currently, the commodity’s per kilo price ranges from P45 to P60.

Rubio said he has already sent BOC officers to conduct the inspections as of August 29.

From January to July 2023, BOC recorded a total of 2.257 million metric tons (mt) of imported rice, down from 2.675 million mt in the same period last year.

From January to August 26, Rubio said duties and taxes collected from rice importations have reached P16.8 billion.

Last August 24, Rubio said the BOC served three letters of authority on three warehouses — Great Harvest Rice Mill Warehouse, San Pedro Warehouse, and FS Rice Mill Warehouse — located in Intercity Industrial Complex in San Juan, Balagtas, Bulacan for storing alleged smuggled imported rice.

RELATED READ: BOC shuts warehouses with smuggled rice worth P505M

Initial inventory of the warehouses showed an estimated 202,000 sacks of rice were imported from Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam worth an estimated aggregate value of P505 million.

Of the total, about 25,000 sacks were found in the Great Harvest warehouse, 167,000 sacks in the San Pedro warehouse, and 10,000 sacks in FS Rice warehouse.

The three warehouses are currently temporarily sealed to secure the imported rice pending the completion of inventory, which continues until August 29. The warehouses are also being underguarded by personnel from BOC and Philippine Coast Guard.

The owners and operators of the warehouses were directed to submit proof of payment of duties and taxes for the imported rice within 15 days from implementation of the LOA or until September 8, 2023.

BOC Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service director Verne Enciso, during the Aug 29 press briefing, said ongoing investigation includes identifying owners of the warehouses, import documents, leases agreements, and backtracking to see whether the owners have been involved in previous cases.

Rubio said if the owners of the warehouses are unable to show proof of payment of correct duties and taxes within 15 days, warrants of seizure and detention will be issued to confiscate the imported rice for violation of Section 1401 (Unlawful Importation) in relation to Section 1113 (Property subject to seizure and forfeiture) of Republic Act No. 10863, or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.