Senator Chiz Escudero challenged the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to immediately file charges against traders suspected of smuggling and hoarding rice, which is being blamed for the artificial shortage of the food staple and price spikes in recent months.
At the same time, Escudero called on customs for their failure to disclose to the public the names of traders and operators whose warehouses were raided by government authorities for tons of suspected smuggled rice.
“Ang dami nang raids na ginawa nitong mga nakaraang linggo, bakit hanggang ngayon, wala pang kasong isinasampa sa mga taong sangkot?” the veteran legislator said.
The seasoned lawmaker stressed the need to file cases and bring these economic saboteurs to court to serve as a warning that the Marcos administration is indeed serious in its campaign against smugglers and hoarders.
We should bring them to the court of justice to prove that this administration is resolute in its campaign against rice cartel.”
“Hindi tayo dapat nagtatapos sa mga raids lamang. Naghihintay at nagmamatyag ang taumbayan sa susunod na hakbangin ng pamahalaan. Sampahan na agad ng kaso ang mga dapat sampahan. We should bring them to the court of justice to prove that this administration is resolute in its campaign against rice cartel,” the senator said.
Republic Act 10845 or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016 considers large-scale smuggling of agricultural products as economic sabotage and involves “at least P1 million worth of sugar, corn, pork, poultry, garlic, onion, carrots, fish, and cruciferous vegetables, in their raw state, or which have undergone the simple processes of preparation and preservation for the market, or a minimum of P10 million worth of rice, as valued by Bureau of Customs (BoC).”
“Bakit hanggang ngayon, walang kaso?”
“Bakit hanggang ngayon, walang kaso? Why haven’t I heard anyone sued for economic sabotage or something? Who owns these warehouses? Who are the people involved?” he asked.
On September 15, the BOC-Port of Zamboanga seized some 42,180 sacks of rice worth P42 million in Barangay San Jose Gusu after authorities discovered that the goods were not covered by the requisite sanitary and phytosanitary import clearance from the Bureau of Plant Industry.
Two weeks prior, the customs bureau inspected three warehouses in Bulacan and found these stocked with suspected smuggled imported rice worth P505 million. It temporarily sealed and guarded these warehouses located inside the Intercity Industrial Complex in Balagtas, Bulacan.
Aside from calling on the immediate filing of the case against the hoarders, Escudero said the government should also update the public on the development of these cases in the spirit of transparency.
“Ito ang mga dapat nilang masagot ngayon: who oversees the disposition and how will it be disposed? Ano ang gagawin nila sa mga bigas na nakumpiska?” he stressed.