Customs Commissioner Angelito Alvarez ordered today the seizure of 32 containers of white rice worth P20 million which were unloaded December 5 at the Cebu International Container Port.
The rice cargo from Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam was described in the inward foreign manifest as either metal rods, electronic boards and parts, aluminum bars, tank regulators and ceramic base.
All shipments were consigned to legitimate locators in the West Cebu Industrial Park and the NCTO Special Economic Zone in Cebu City, namely: Asian Craft; K & A Metal Industry; E.P. Precision Cebu Parts; Air Liquid Philippines; and, Kyocera Cebu.
The management of all five companies had issued statements denying any knowledge, much less involvement, in the illegal rice shipment.
Alvarez said that the modus operandi of the real importer whose identity was still being established was to declare the shipment as bound for PEZA locators.
Under the Customs rules and regulations implementing the Special Economic Zone Act of 1995, PEZA registered enterprises are authorized to bring in raw materials for processing into finished products for re-exportation, provided that they are covered by the proper import permits issued by the PEZA.
Rice is assessed an import duty of 50%.
The smuggling attempt, said Alvarez, was detected when alert customs personnel found questionable items in the vessel’s inward foreign manifests. What gave it away was the realization by the customs employees that Vietnam was not a traditional supplier of the products listed in the inward foreign manifests.
Alvarez said this case had brought to light another manner by which privileges accorded to PEZ-registered enterprises “are being abused and misused by some errant business people and customs employees.”
He said he had directed the agency’s Run After the Smugglers (RATS) Program to conduct a thorough investigation of this case to unmask the people behind this smuggling attempt, including the customs employees in cahoots with smugglers.
He reiterated his declaration of an all-out war against smugglers, saying “I am determined to make smuggling unprofitable and corruption a shameless crime.”