BOC set to seize smuggled rice

THE Bureau of Customs (BOC) Port of Cebu will conduct seizure proceedings on the 14 cargo containers of smuggled rice so these can be forfeited in favor of the government.

The BOC is running after smugglers on orders of President Rodrigo Duterte, who wants to wipe out illegal activities at the ports.

BOC Port of Cebu OIC-District Collector Wivina “Baby” Pumatong said they are also investigating whether the 14 cargo containers are in the same bill of lading (BL) as those containers that held ceramic tiles.

“If the rice and the tiles have separate BLs, the tiles were not made as camouflage for the rice. But if the two products are in only one BL, both would be illegal,” Pumatong said.

If in one bill of lading for 10 cargo containers, three cargo containers are proven to hold tiles while seven contain rice, all the products will be forfeited in favor of the government.

However, even if one consignee has two BLs, one for the rice and one for the tiles, then only the rice would be seized.

Records show that Pumatong and Deputy Collector for Operations Rico Rey Francis Holganza issued several alert orders for a total of 75 cargo containers, which had been declared as ceramic tiles from China.

Of the 75 cargo containers, one was spirited out of the Cebu International Port , 14 contained smuggled rice, and 60 contained ceramic tiles, as declared.

The two consignees are based in Manila.

Pumatong explained that at present, rice importers pay 50 percent of the rice cost as tariff plus 12 percent in value-added tax (VAT).

“That may be the reason the importers smuggled the rice--to avoid paying the tariff--because in declaring the items as tiles they would have to pay only the VAT,” she said.

She added that if importers declare the rice, they would pay the high rate of duty, 50 percent plus 12 percent VAT, or a total of 52 percent of the total rice cost.

Pumatong said that if rice importers can get a minimum access volume from the National Food Security Council, they would only have to pay 35 percent tariff plus VAT.
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