BOC warned vs release of seized smuggled rice

By Eva Visperas, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jan 10 2014 03:20 AM | Updated as of Jan 10 2014 11:20 AM

ROSALES, Pangasinan, Philippines – The peasant coalition Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag) threatened to file a suit against the Bureau of Customs (BOC) if the agency releases seized rice that have no import permits.

Rosendo So, Sinag president, told The STAR yesterday that the BOC should stand firm and stop the release of seized imported rice amid reports that smugglers are resorting to court actions to prevent Customs authorities from implementing the seizure of shipments.

He said if the BOC gives in to pressure, it would set a bad precedent and many culprits would repeat the wrong procedure because they could get away with it anyway.

Jesse Dellosa, BOC deputy commissioner for intelligence, said they noticed the shift in strategy of rice smugglers in the past months.

So said rice importers should first apply for import permits from the National Food Authority (NFA), which is the proper procedure.

“It should not be that when the shipment is already here then you apply (for permits). That is wrong,” So added.

Dellosa said at least P725 million worth of smuggled rice had been seized since September from 1,936 shipping containers.

These entered the country through the ports of Manila, Davao, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro and Batangas.

The BOC should not release the shipment because it involves illegal entry, So said.

He said when seizure had been made, the owners said they could get import permit from the NFA and they set an appointment with the agency. But the NFA refused to issue the permit, he added.

Lawyer Argee Guevarra, who earlier exposed the alleged anomaly in the NFA’s rice importation, had urged the government to run after a certain “Buddy R” and not the fictional rice smuggler “David Tan.”

Guevarra said Buddy R is a trader engaged with the Department of Agriculture who manages the kickbacks in connection with government-to-government (G2G) deals.

He said Buddy R is engaged in buying NFA properties at a very cheap price and selling or leasing the same at a higher cost.

“This Buddy R is the government’s David Tan in rice smuggling who is in charge of determining and distributing kickbacks from G2G scheme. He went to Singapore to receive kickbacks in relation to the April 2013 G2G rice importation from Vietnam,” Guevarra claimed.

He said this trader was among those he already charged before the office of the Ombudsman last month.

He urged the Department of Justice to run after Buddy R who, industry sources revealed, is a businessman surnamed “Roa.”

Last November, he said Roa raked in huge kickbacks from the importation of 500,000 metric tons of rice at a price of $462 per metric ton.

“Buddy R is a real person while David Tan is a product of fiction, a bogeyman or a phantom created to cow legitimate rice traders who oppose the G2G scheme. I will ask the DOJ to investigate this person to know his dealings and identify his handlers, including (Agriculture Secretary Proceso) Alcala and a congressman from Mindanao,“ Guevarra stressed.

Last Wednesday, Guevarra said that exposure of David Tan is part of a grand scheme to divert the public’s attention from the real culprits in rice smuggling.

He previously filed a complaint against DA and NFA officials before the justice department and a separate plunder case against the same officials before the Office of the Ombudsman.

“Again, I say the witch hunt for a certain David Tan is obviously part of a grand plot to instill fear among legitimate rice traders who can be accused of being Tan himself. Buddy R is a real person while Tan is a fictional character created to ensure Alcala et al‘s absolute control of the industry,” Guevarra pointed out. – With Edu Punay