The Bureau of Customs (BOC) has uncovered four warehouses in Bulacan province that were storing smuggled rice and palay worth an estimated P519 million. The operation was part of the government’s crackdown on rice smuggling, which President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. ordered to intensify amid the rising cost of rice in the market.
The BOC Inspection Team, led by Intelligence Group Deputy Commissioner Juvymax Uy and Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS) Director Verne Enciso, raided the warehouses located in Wakas, Bocaue and San Juan, Balagtas on Wednesday, August 30, 2023. They were accompanied by House Speaker Martin Romualdez and Representatives Erwin Tulfo, Wilfrido Mark Enverga, and Ambrosio Cruz Jr.
The team found 154,000 sacks of imported rice grains from Vietnam and Pakistan, valued at P431 million, and 60,000 sacks of palay, valued at P88 million. The owners of the warehouses failed to show proper documents that they legally imported the rice and paid the correct duties and taxes.
Commissioner Bienvenido Y. Rubio said that the operation was a response to the President’s directive to curb rice smuggling and stabilize the price of rice in the market. He added that the BOC will take immediate legal action and confiscate the smuggled goods if the warehouse owners cannot present valid documents.
The BOC Inspection Team acted on derogatory information about the warehouses and verified it before issuing the Letters of Authority (LOAs) for the inspection. The LOAs were served to the respective representatives of the warehouses before proceeding to inspect them.
Depcom Uy said that they acted swiftly because they understood that they were fighting against big-time organizations that could potentially cripple the agricultural sector. He said that the operation was important for the welfare of the agricultural workers, the farmers, and the everyday consumers.
Director Enciso said that the recent operations should motivate the bureau to put an end to rice smuggling. He said that they will use their intelligence to be one step ahead of any potential smuggling attempt and work on bringing these smugglers to justice.
The warehouses were temporarily padlocked and sealed as inventory of the imported goods stored thereat is being conducted by the assigned Customs examiners and witnessed by agents from CIIS, PCG, and the warehouse representatives.
The BOC has the authority to inspect warehouses under Chapter 2, Section 224 of Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA).