Customs tightens drive against rice smuggling

Published September 23, 2020, 5:00 AM

by Chino S. Leyco

The Bureau of Customs further stepped 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. 

Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero 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.”

Guerrero said this is 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)  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 pandemic.

To recall, FFF had questioned the Customs’ assessment and valuation system on the entry of rice imports.

The Customs 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 to Dominguez.  

 “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.

Under Customs Memorandum Order 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 bureau also responded to reports by concerned citizens on warehouses suspected of storing smuggled rice stocks by immediately issuing Letters of Authority to inspect the 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.