Importing rice without the prerequisite import permit from the National Food Authority (NFA) prompted the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to file smuggling-related cases against representatives of Intercontinental Grains International Trading, Inc at the Department of Justice. The charges stem from the firm’s illegal importation of over 5,400 Metric Tons (more than 5.4-Million kilograms) of rice from September to October 2013. The rice has a total dutiable value of P76.9-Million and an estimated market value of P217-Million.
Two separate complaints were filed by BOC Acting District Collectors Mario Mendoza of the Port of Manila and Elmir Dela Cruz of the Manila International Container Port against Edgar Salvador, Proprietor of Intercontinental Grains International Trading; Reginald Sihiyon, the company’s President and Chairman; Ruperto Guilaran, Corporate Secretary and Director; Zarian Lanzar, Treasurer and Director; Board Members Emma Dequilla and Apolonio Magno; as well as the firm’s customs brokers Baltazar Ramirez and Ailene Rejuso. The eight face multiple counts of violating Section 3601 of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines (TCCP) and Section 29 of Presidential Decree (PD) Number 4, as amended by P.D. No. 1485. The latter states that only the NFA can import rice and private entities who wish to do the same must secure a permit from the agency; while the former prohibits any importation that does not comply the necessary regulations.
Each count of violating Section 3601 of the TCCP carries a maximum punishment of ten years imprisonment and a fine of P50,000; while violation of P.D. No. 4 is levied a maximum penalty of four years imprisonment and a fine of P8,000.00 per count.
Intercontinental Grains International Trading imported 4,750 Metric Tons of rice through the Manila International Container Port and another 675 Metric Tons via the Port of Manila. Both shipments came from Thailand. However, based on records from the NFA, the firm was allotted a total import quota of only 1,565 Metric Tons in 2013. The NFA also confirmed that none of the shipments of Intercontinental Grains International Trading were covered by any import permit nor were any documents filed before the agency.
“The fact that Intercontinental Grains did not bother to file a permit with the NFA and ignored the quota it was allotted signifies bad faith and a gross disregard for our laws. These import volumes are regulated to ensure fair trade and an even playing field for our local rice industry, which firms like Intercontinental Grains ignored to the detriment of our farmers,” says Customs Commissioner John P. Sevilla.
Data from the BOC showed that Intercontinental Grains International Trading was one of 2013’s biggest rice importers. The firm, along with Bold Bidder Marketing, Silent Royalty Marketing, Starcraft International Trading Corporation and Medaglia De Oro Trading, cornered a combined 75% of the 200,000 Metric Tons of rice that entered various ports in the country without the required import from NFA in 2013.