BOC steps up drive vs rice smuggling despite pandemic

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) has continued to step up its campaign against rice smuggling even amid the coronavirus pandemic by conducting raids on warehouses suspected of storing illegally imported stocks of the grain in response to reports by concerned citizens. 

BOC seized 125,000 sacks of rice smuggled from Thailand, China and India two years ago in various warehouses in Bulacan.
(Photo courtesy of the Bureau of Customs)

Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero also assured Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III that rice stocks imported by private traders during this time of crisis would still be subject to “post-modification and post audit” to ensure that undervalued shipments are properly assessed and subsequently paid with the correct amount of duties and taxes.

Guerrero said he had informed the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF), which had questioned the BOC’s assessment and valuation system on the entry of rice imports, that because rice is considered a “critical” commodity, traders were allowed to avail of the Provisional Goods Declaration in processing their shipments at this time of the coronavirus pandemic.

The BOC has found the valuation of several rice shipments with provisional goods declaration to “be quite low compared to the prevailing market prices,” Guerrero said in his report during a recent Department of Finance (DOF) Executive Committee (Execom) meeting.  

“But those are subject to post-modification and post-audit. And in the meantime, we are still conducting the post-modification, verifying the payments of rice because some of them are clearly undervalued. So we will catch up in the post modification and post-audit,” Guerrero said during the Execom meeting held via Zoom. 

The Bureau of Customs seized P25 million worth of alleged smuggled rice in a warehouse in Calamba, Laguna two years ago.

Under Customs Memorandum Order (CMO) No. 07-2020, if the Customs district/sub-port collector accepts a provisional goods declaration, the duty and tax treatment of the goods under provisional declaration will not be different from that of goods with complete declaration.

For the release of shipments under tentative assessment, the importer will be required to post the required security, whether in the form of surety bond or cash bond. 

Guerrero said the customs bureau has also responded to reports by concerned citizens regarding warehouses suspected of storing smuggled rice stocks by immediately issuing Letters of Authority to enable BOC officers to inspect such warehouses and seize goods without the requisite importation permits.

“We actually raided them and we found out that many of these warehouses were operating legally and their stocks are covered by proper documents,” Guerrero said.