Prior to its seizure of over Php42million worth of illegally imported rice from Vietnam at the Port of Subic, the Bureau of Customs (BOC), made its biggest smuggled rice haul when the same Port issued a decree of forfeiture against 420,000 bags of illegally imported rice from India worth Php500 million at the same port.
According to Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon, the vessel Vinalines Mighty sailed into the Subic Port on April 4, 2012 with the huge load of white rice from India and consigned to METROEASTERN TRADING CORP.
Alert BOC officials at the Port of Subic got suspicious when its consignee failed to produce the needed requirements for rice importation such as the Allocation and Import Permits from the National Food Authority (NFA) among others.
â€œThere was clearly a grand design to illegally slip the 420,000 bags of imported white rice into the country as, not only was the importation undocumented, but itâ€™s consigneeÂ Â tried to makeÂ Â the shipment appear as a transshipment load to Jakarta,â€ Biazon said.
â€œWe will never allow unscrupulous traders to exploit the privileges offered by the countryâ€™s various freeport zones like the Port of Subic to be their staging points for smuggling,â€ Biazon added.
As this developed, METROEASTERN TRADINGâ€™s lawyers claimed in their appeal for the lifting of the Warrant ofÂ Â Seizure and Detention (WSD) Order on the rice shipment that, the real consignee of the 420,000 bags of rice was an India based company named AMIRA C FOODS INTERNATIONAL DMCC, and that the rice shipment was originally destined for Jakarta, Indonesia. But because of the delayed arrival of the vessel that carried the rice shipment from India to the Port of Jakarta, the shipmentâ€™s import permit for Jakarta had already lapsed. The Jakarta Customs authorities then, did not allow the 42,000 bags of rice to be unloaded, prompting AMIRA C FOODSÂ Â INTERNATIONAL DMCCÂ Â to seek a Port that allows transshipment such as the Port of Subic.
In his decision, however, regarding the rice seizure, Port of SubicÂ Â Former District Collector Errol B. Albano stressed that contrary to the claims of METROEASTERN TRADINGâ€™SÂ Â lawyers, the 42,000 bags rice shipment were really destined for delivery at the Port of Subic as evidenced by Bill of Lading No. KDL/VM/01 as the party to notify and consignee at the Port of Subic.Â Â Moreover, its Packing List and Commercial Invoice No. 222215, dated March 20, 2012 with Exporters Reference No.Â 059400014Â issued by no less than AMIRA itself states that METROEASTERN TRADING was the consignee and that the Port of Subic was the port of discharge.
â€œWithout doubt, this is a case of large scale attempt to smuggle rice into the country.Â Â Had we not stopped this illegal rice importation, it could have caused tremendous damage to our local farmers,â€ Biazon pointed out.
AMIRA later on filed an Appeal memorandum dated June 29, 2012 which is presently under review by the Legal Service.