News Release

’We are acting on a Presidential directive’ – BOC on seized Zamboanga rice imports; eyed for DSWD donation

Acting on the directive of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., the Bureau of Customs (BOC) seized over 40,000 bags of imported rice worth P42 million in the Port of Zamboanga City over the weekend.

According to Bureau of Customs-Port of Zamboanga (BOC-POZ) chief Benny Lontok, they are following the express directive of the President under Executive Order 39, which put a price cap on rice and which authorized intensified efforts to combat smugglers and price manipulators.

“Iyon po ay bilang pagtugon sa directiba ng ating Pangulo at para matugunan po iyong presyo ng ng bigas kung saan pag-issue ng executive order para magkaroon ng price cap sa pamilihan sa halaga ng presyo ng bigas,” Lontok said, referring to last Friday’s seizure of the smuggled rice in Zamboanga City.

In a news forum in Quezon City on Saturday, Lontok recommended donating the seized rice imports to government programs.

He said they have forwarded their recommendation to the BOC Central office in Manila and awaiting further action.

“Ang recommendation po although subject sa approval ni Commissioner and Secretary of Finance, idu-donate po yata sa government program – I don’t know po kung Kadiwa or sa DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development), pero iyon po ay pinag-uusapan pa,” Lontok said.

Lontok also disclosed that a recommendation has been made to escalate the current case to authorities in the BOC central office for further investigation pertaining to potential actions against the owner of the warehouse.

BOC-POZ confiscated 42,180 bags of imported rice worth P42 million, following a raid on a warehouse in Brgy. San Jose Gusu, Zamboanga City last May 19, 2023.

Although the warehouse owner submitted import documents, the investigation by authorities revealed that there were irregularities.

“When we checked the documents, hindi po tumutugma iyong dokumento doon sa actual na nilalaman sa bodega so that’s why we issued a warrant of seizure and detention, and eventually na-forfeit po iyong goods in favor of the government,” Lontok said.

There were also disparities between the actual seized goods and the descriptions provided in the submitted documents. The payment records submitted referred to a shipment of “White Rice 15% Broken,” while the physical examination confirmed that the confiscated rice was Jasmine Fragrant Rice.

The warehouse also lacked the necessary Sanitary and Phytosanitary Import Clearance (SPSIC) from the Bureau of Plant Industry, Lontok said.

On September 1, the BOC-POZ issued an Order of Forfeiture for violating the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA), Rice Tariffication Law, and Republic Act No. 10845, otherwise known as the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016.

The BOC said they will conduct more inspections of warehouses following President Marcos’ directive to address hoarding and illegal rice importation.

In late August, the BOC raided three warehouses in Bulacan allegedly storing smuggled rice reportedly worth over PhP500 million. *PND*