Smuggling raps filed vs top rice importer
MANILA, Philippines—The Bureau of Customs (BOC) on Friday filed in the Department of Justice (DOJ) separate complaints of smuggling against a top rice importer, its officials and customs brokers for bringing into the country P1.8 billion worth of rice through three key ports last year.
Acting BOC district collectors in Manila, Davao and Cebu filed four criminal complaints against officials of Starcraft International Trading Corp. before the DOJ for alleged violations of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines and regulations enforcing import quotas on the supply of staple food.
The bureau said Starcraft had imported without permits a total of 45,000 metric tons of rice from Vietnam, Thailand, China and Singapore from June to November last year through the ports of Manila, Cebu and Davao.
The import volume was equivalent to 3,700 percent of what Starcraft was allowed to bring into the country, the BOC said. The firm only had a permit to import 1,176 metric tons of rice through Manila.
The bureau said Starcraft earlier filed court cases to argue that private importers could bring in rice without security permits as import restrictions had already been lifted through a World Trade Organization agreement in 2012.
But the BOC reiterated the Philippine law, where “only the NFA can import rice and companies who wish to do the same must secure an import permit from the agency.”
“Our laws were not changed. Import permits for rice were still required. Starcraft cannot unilaterally interpret the laws by itself. Regulation of rice is critical because millions of farmers’ livelihoods depend on rice farming,” said Customs Commissioner John Sevilla in a statement.
Starcraft is the fifth large-scale importer to face smuggling charges this year, the BOC said.
Together, the five top importers—Starcraft, Intercontinental Grains International Trading Inc., Bold Bidder Marketing and General Merchandise, Silent Royalty Marketing and Medaglia De Oro Trading—accounted for 75 percent of the 200,000 metric tons of rice smuggled through various Philippine ports last year, the BOC said.
Those charged on Friday include Starcraft president Jeffrey Daradal, its Board of Directors Eugene Pioquinto, Aveleo Godoy, Anna Orqueta, Brendal Daradal, Jessie Bantula, and company representative Hanlie Solema.
Also charged “for facilitating the unlawful importation of rice” were custom brokers Denise Kathryn Rosaroso, John Kevin Cisneros, Emilio Chio, Eduardo Borje III, Rosemarie Arciaga, Gerald Villarosa, Jennifer Ann Reyes, Elbert Lusterio, Dianne Dizon-Tapia, Laila Silvestre, Francis Rudolph Forneste and Kenneth Quial.
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