CEBU CITY—Some P237 million worth of imported rice from Thailand contained in 118,500 bags were seized by Customs intelligence men for arriving at the Cebu International Port beyond the Feb. 28 deadline imposed by National Food Authority Administrator Jason Aquino.
This was despite the decision of the NFA Council headed by Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. to extend it for the remaining six percent of the 2016 Minimum Access Volume or MAV allocation to March 31.
The apprehended rice was part of the 2016 MAV importation program but was not issued import permits because of the Feb. 28 deadline imposed by Aquino, apparently ignoring an extension ordered by the NFAC.
The importers said they have already paid customs duties in advance through the Land Bank of the Philippines yet the shipments were treated like smuggled rice.
Aquino favors government-to-government transactions in importing rice, while Evasco prefers bringing in rice from abroad through private traders.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, who sits as member of the NFAC, has announced that President Rodrigo Duterte had already agreed in principle to allow the private sector to import rice and let market forces determine the volumes of rice to be imported.
Verne Enciso, officer in charge of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service-Cebu, said the shipments arrived last March at the CIP but were discovered only recently.
In his recommendation to District Collector Elvira Cruz, Enciso said that a Warrant of Seizure and Detention should be issued against the shipment, as well as the MV Mekong, which shipped the rice and is still anchored at the CIP.
Enciso said 80,000 rice bags were found in a cargo vessel while 38,500 more were found in 77 container vans.
Last month, BOC-Cebu apprehended P289 million worth of rice from Vietnam, Pakistan, and Thailand that arrived at the Cebu port on March 1, 2, 7, and 8. Similar apprehended shipments have also arrived at the ports of Cagayan de Oro, Davao, and Manila.