The Office of the Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization (OPAFSAM) and the National Food Authority (NFA) on Wednesday seized P15 million worth of illegally imported rice as part of a continuing effort to ensure food security in the country.

Food Security Secretary Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan and NFA Administrator Renan Dalisay, together with NFA officials confiscated approximately 5,000 bags or close to 250,000 kilograms of rice stored in a warehouse owned by a certain Alvin Tiu Chua.

According to Pangilinan, the trader and warehouse owner will face sanctions, as the warehouse is not licensed with the NFA. Rice is a regulated commodity, and so also requires a license to be imported. If smuggling is rampant, then prices of rice and palay will fall, harming local farmers.

According to initial information from the National Bureau of Investigation, the rice was imported from Thailand, then brought in through Zamboanga before being taken to Manila.

“Information is, January pa labas-pasok ang mga sasakyan dito. Na-monitor, and finally nagpunta na tayo dito,” Pangilinan said.

In addition, the bags lacked proper markings—the sacks were labeled regular or well milled rice, but contained glutinous fancy rice instead.

“We will seize this, confiscate this, kasama na ang may-ari ng warehouse,” Pangilinan said. “Ito ay warning sa ating mga negosyante. Hindi dahil nanggaling sa Zamboanga ang shipment ng rice, hindi na ito mate-trace. Siguro iyon ang akala nila, kaya sa backdoor nila pinapadala.”

“Maaaring makasama ito sa ating mga magsasaka. Kapag may murang smuggled rice, mababawasan ang perang papasok sa ating mga magsasaka,” Pangilinan noted.

Dalisay meanwhile said that the NFA will continue its efforts to curb smuggling in the country. “Dahil bago din ang management ng NFA, binabantayan natin ang importation of rice. Ito ay para din masanay ang mga ating nagpa-participate na maging compliant every step of the way.”

“Magpapatuloy ang ating pagmamasid at pagiinspect. Ito ang marching orders nina Secretary Francis Pangilinan at Pangulong Benigno Aquino III,” Dalisay said.