The National Food Authority (NFA) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) said on Monday they have seized 300 metric tons (MT) of suspected smuggled rice at the Port of Zamboanga.
The two agencies confiscated a total of 12,000 25-kilogram bags of rice valued at P9 million. NFA Administrator Renan B. Dalisay said in a statement that the cargo was seized when the consignees could not present a shipping permit.
The NFA identified the consignee as Habib Ummar Sahipa Hashim, or Munib A. Sabiran, from Jolo, Sulu. The shipper was identified as SAFI Grains Development Corp. of Glamang, Polomolok, South Cotabato.
On July 28 Dalisay said the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) invited the NFA to attend a meeting to discuss the consignee’s request for a berthing permit of the rice shipment, which was allegedly from General Santos City.
During the meeting, the consignee could not present a shipping clearance or permit, and instead presented an application for shipping permit, he said.
On July 29 the PPA issued a notice of violations to the consignee, such as berthing without permit and side shipping with MV Katrina without permit.
A joint inspection, led by BOC Deputy Commissioner Jessie D. Dellosa, was conducted by the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization, the PPA, NFA and the BOC. During the media briefing, Dalisay said the case was handled through an interagency cooperation.
At present, the suspected smuggled rice is in the custody of the BOC.
Earlier, Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura President Rosendo So said a total of 602,986 MT of rice were smuggled in the Philippines in 2014. He added that as of the first half of 2015, approximately 280,000 MT of imported rice had entered the country illegally.
Aside from posing a threat to the public’s safety, Sen. Cynthia Villar said the entry of smuggled rice makes it more difficult to project the actual rice imports needed by the Philippines.