14DONATION LEYCO RJ
By CHINO S. LEYCO
Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III ordered the immediate release of smuggled rice and other food items in the Bureau of Customs warehouses to augment the ongoing preparations for relief operations.
Ahead of the expected landfall of typhoon “Ompong” in Cagayan, Dominguez directed Customs Commissioner Isidro S. Lapeña to release all smuggled rice and other food items to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
“Please release all seized rice and foodstuff in your possession to the DSWD for possible disaster relief,” Dominguez said in a mobile phone message sent to Lapeña, which the finance chief later on shared to finance reporters.
Dominguez’s directive was in response to President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s order to all government agencies to ensure the highest level of readiness for the typhoon.
The finance chief said that “government-to-government transfers in emergency situations can be legally fast-tracked” as in the case of the Customs release of the seized food stocks to the DSWD for disaster relief.
Under Chapter 10, Section 1141 of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA), goods under Customs custody that are up for disposal “may be donated to another government agency or declared for official use by the Bureau, after approval of the Secretary of Finance.”
Goods suitable for shelter, food items, clothing materials, and medicines “may be donated to the DSWD,” the CMTA stated.
Dominguez was present during a command conference led by the President Thursday afternoon at Camp Aguinaldo to discuss ongoing preparations for the possible disastrous impact of “Ompong,” which could possibly reach super typhoon status.
Earlier, Dominguez instructed the Customs to coordinate with the DSWD on the distribution of confiscated rice stocks to flood victims and the poorest municipalities in the country, in response to a proposal of Quirino Rep. Dakila Carlo Cua.
Lapeña reported during a recent Department of Finance (DOF) Executive Committee (Execom) meeting that the Customs seized in July some 100 containers with 50,000 sacks of rice worth P125 million at the Manila International Container Port (MICP).
The shipment from Thailand was consigned to the Sta. Rosa Farm Products Corp. but without the necessary import permits, Lapeña said.
Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua earlier said Cua had followed up on his proposal on the donation of the seized rice stocks during a roundtable discussion last month organized by the panel to discuss the status of the social mitigation programs under the first tax reform law.
Cua had earlier proposed that smuggled rice be donated to families affected by the recent typhoons.
The lawmaker said during the hearing that rather than auction off the stocks, which could possibly end up in the hands of smugglers who use dummies to buy these back, it would be better for the Customs to just donate them to flood victims.