Saturday, September 15, 2012

Philippines seizes $4.8m rice shipment from Vietnam

Less than two months after the seizure of an allegedly smuggled 430-million peso (US$10.3 million) worth of Indian rice, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) seized and detained yesterday a Vietnamese vessel carrying 200 million peso ($4.8 million) worth of undocumented rice imports. The shipment arrived in Legazpi, Albay, two weeks ago.

“The import authority legitimising the importation of the rice shipment has not been presented to the Bureau of Customs (BOC) up to this day. That is why, the importation of the cargo is now subject to seizure,” said Commodore Joel Garcia, the PCG commander for Bicol.

The Minh Tuan 68, which is reportedly carrying 94,000 bags of rice, was brought closer to the Legaspi pier from the Albay Gulf anchorage area where the ship had been held for the past two weeks.

Garcia said the PCG action was based on a warrant of seizure and detention that the Bureau of Customs issued earlier this week against the Vietnamese vessel “for alleged illegal transport of a rice shipment from Vietnam.”

BOC and PCG personnel are guarding the ship to prevent it from unloading the rice.

The vessel, with 16 Vietnamese officers and crewmen on board, reportedly arrived in the waters off Legazpi on Sept. 2.

When the PCG and BOC boarded the vessel a week ago, they discovered that the shipment lacked the import authority document that should have been issued by the National Food Authority (NFA).

Officials said it was puzzling why the vessel chose to dock in Legazpi when the consignees were in Central and Northern Luzon.

Earlier this week, the BOC office in Legazpi said the NFA and the rice shipment’s five consignees promised to produce the importation papers on Monday, but none were delivered.

Yolanda Navarro, the head of the NFA office in Albay, said in a phone interview that the importation was covered by proper documents, with the rice consigned to five multipurpose cooperatives, all of which are based in Luzon.

However, some of the consignees have yet to complete the papers that were needed to be presented to the BOC, she said.

The required documents include the import permit issued by the NFA, the memorandum of undertaking between the NFA and the private consignees, the authenticated notice of award and notice to proceed, the bill of lading, and the payment of BOC duties and other fees.

Navarro said the consignees of the Vietnamese rice shipment were: the Ugnayan Magbubukid ng San Pedro Inc. from Candaba, Pampanga, 21,000 bags; Karapatan Takusa Multipurpose Cooperative, Candaba, 21,000 bags; Malipampang Concerned Citizens Multipurpose Cooperative of San Ildefonso, Bulacan, 18,000 bags; Samahan ng Magsasakang Capampangan at Katagalogan Multipurpose Cooperative, also of San Ildefonso, 18,000 bags; and the Sili Multipurpose Cooperative, Naguilian, La Union, 16,000 bags.

The NFA official said there was nothing wrong with using Legazpi as the port of entry for the rice shipment as Albay has been a regular port of discharge of imported rice consigned to the NFA.

The head of the NFA office in Bulacan said the four Central Luzon-based farmers’ cooperatives among the consignees of the Vietnamese rice shipment were legitimate groups.

"Their documents [as organisations] are in order," said Serafin Manalili.

He said the Ugnayan Magbubukid ng San Isidro Inc., Karapatan Takusa Multipurpose Cooperative, Malipampang Concerned Citizens Multipurpose Cooperative and the Samahan ng Magsasakang Capampangan at Katagalogan Multipurpose Cooperative “have not been involved in any controversy in the past three years.”

The leaders of the four farmers’ groups could not be reached for comment.

Manalili explained that the bidding for rice importations is carried out at the NFA national office in Metro Manila.-Asia News Network (September 15, 2012)

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