President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has directed the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to donate to government programs some 40,000 bags of seized imported rice worth P42 million in the Port of Zamboanga City over the weekend.

Bureau of Customs-Port of Zamboanga (BOC-POZ) chief Benny Lontok said they were following the express directive of Marcos under Executive Order 39, which put a price cap on rice and which authorized intensified efforts to combat smugglers and price manipulators.

“Iyon po ay bilang pagtugon sa directiba ng ating Pangulo at para matugunan po iyong presyo ng ng bigas kung saan pag-issue ng executive order para magkaroon ng price cap sa pamilihan sa halaga ng presyo ng bigas,” Lontok said in a news forum in Quezon City on Saturday.

He said they have forwarded their recommendation to the BOC Central office in Manila and awaiting further action.

“Ang recommendation po although subject sa approval ni Commissioner and Secretary of Finance, idu-donate po yata sa government program – I don’t know po kung Kadiwa or sa DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development), pero iyon po ay pinag-uusapan pa,” Lontok said.

Lontok disclosed that a recommendation had been made to escalate the current case to authorities in the BOC central office for further investigation pertaining to potential actions against the owner of the warehouse.

BOC-POZ confiscated 42,180 bags of imported rice worth P42 million, following a raid on a warehouse in Brgy. San Jose Gusu, Zamboanga City last May 19, 2023.

Although the warehouse owner submitted import documents, the investigation by authorities revealed that there were irregularities.

“When we checked the documents, hindi po tumutugma iyong dokumento doon sa actual na nilalaman sa bodega so that’s why we issued a warrant of seizure and detention, and eventually na-forfeit po iyong goods in favor of the government,” Lontok said.

Lontok said that there were disparities between the actual seized goods and the descriptions provided in the submitted documents.

He said the payment records submitted referred to a shipment of “White Rice 15 percent Broken,” while the physical examination confirmed that the confiscated rice was Jasmine Fragrant Rice.

Lontok said the warehouse lacked the necessary Sanitary and Phytosanitary Import Clearance (SPSIC) from the Bureau of Plant Industry.

On September 1, the BOC-POZ issued an order of forfeiture for violating the laws on tariff and duties and the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016.

Lontok said they would conduct more raids of warehouses following Marcos’ directive to address hoarding and illegal rice importation.

In late August, the BOC raided three warehouses in Bulacan allegedly storing smuggled rice worth over P500 million.

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