THE Bureau of Customs Sub-port Office in Dumaguete City has assured that the thousands of rice bags previously confiscated in Zamboanguita, Negros Oriental in the absence of proper documents were properly disposed of through auction.
Dumaguete Customs Collector Fe Lluelyn Toring gave the assurance Wednesday following queries from the public on what had ever happened to the illegal rice shipment from Malaysia via a vessel from Zamboanga, which was intercepted in Barangay Lutuban, Zamboanguita, Negros Oriental last April 3, 2015.
Toring said that following the confiscation of the smuggled goods and inventory, the Bureau of Customs in Cebu City took over the investigation and subsequent hearings because of the agency’s legal office being based there.
The rice shipment, meanwhile, was turned over to the National Food Authority here for safekeeping pending the investigation process until the auction was held.
According to Toring, the confiscated rice shipment was auctioned last December 10, 2015 and was awarded to the winning bidder at PHP4,265 million.
The rice shipment totaled 8,954 bags at 25 kilos each and not 9,000 as previously reported by a Coast Guard inventory.
Some of the rice bags even already had holes and were no longer intact, she added.
The other items that were confiscated in that incident, such as foodstuffs and mattresses, are still in the bodega of the Customs Office in the city, she said.
The foodstuffs can no longer be donated for safety reasons while non-consumable items might be donated to charity, Toring said.
As for the motor launch or “batil,” which carried the illegal rice shipment, Toring said it was also confiscated by the Bureau of Customs although the owner signified his intention to pay the proper fines and penalties so he could retrieve it.
The process has hit a snag because the vessel, the ML Al Althie, is now half-sunken in Tambobo Bay, Siaton in south Negros Oriental and has to be salvaged.
The owner wants to hire his own salvor for the process but a Coast Guard policy requires that only a salvaging company accredited by the Coast Guard can do the job, said Toring. (Judy Flores Partlow/PNA)