SC rejects bid to release seized smuggled rice

By Edu Punay, The Philippine Star

Posted at May 02 2014 08:52 AM | Updated as of May 02 2014 04:52 PM

MANILA - The Supreme Court (SC) has junked the bid of owners of some 300,000 bags of alleged smuggled rice earlier seized by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) for the release of their cargo.

In a resolution released last Tuesday, the high court dismissed the urgent motions filed by traders Joseph Ngo, Danilo Galang and Ivy Souza seeking the immediate release of their rice shipment.

The importers offered to post a bond equivalent to the value of the rice shipment as assessed by the BOC and to pay the tariff rate of 50 percent for out-quota rice importations and other fees, charges and assessments.

But the SC denied the request.

“The court now cannot, with stronger reason, allow the release of the rice shipment to the said respondents because the Office of the Solicitor General disputes their ownership of the same,” it explained.

Ngo purchased 91,800 bags of imported rice from Starcraft International Trading Corp. The BOC, however, prevented the release of the imported shipment to Ngo, saying it was imported without securing a permit from the National Food Authority.

The cargo arrived in two batches in October and November last year from Thailand and Singapore.

Alert orders were eventually issued against the shipments, and the BOC’s district collector in Davao issued a halt order on Nov. 5, 2013.

Ngo, however, filed a petition before a Davao court and was able to secure an injunction, giving him the rights over the cargo once more, arguing that since the “Special Treatment of Rice Importation” has already expired, quantitative restrictions such as requiring an import permit may no longer be imposed.