SENATOR Cynthia Villar urged the Bureau of Customs (BoC) and the National Food Authority (NFA) to immediately investigate and file cases against those involved in rice smuggling in the country.
This was the reaction of Villar, Senate committee on agriculture and food chair, after the Philippine Coast Guard operatives seized P125 million worth of smuggled rice in Zamboanga province recently.
The senator commended the PCG for the seizure of 60,000 sacks of smuggled rice in Zamboanga while calling on BoC and NFA to have those behind the latest incident of rice smuggling as well as the previous cases of the illegal activity jailed.
“Now that the cargo has been turned over to the BoC, I trust that, together with other concerned agencies, it will immediately investigate and file appropriate charges for violation of laws against smuggling of agricultural products,” said Villar.
The lady solon was worried the efforts of the government to curb rice smuggling will go to waste if those behind the illegal activity will not be imprisoned.
“Maraming kuwento ng hulihan ng smuggled agricultural products ang naiulat sa mga pahayagan, pero wala akong gaanong narinig na may naparusahang mga sangkot sa iligal na gawain,” she said.
One of the cases she mentioned was the raid conducted in July 2014 on a warehouse of one Jomerito Soliman wherein thousands of sacks of fake premium Sinandomeng rice from the mixture of Blue diamond rice from Thailand and broken rice intended for animal feed from Vietnam were confiscated.
No less than then Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, who was among those that conducted the raid at Purefeeds Corporation warehouse in Tikay Village, Malolos, Bulacan, who said that its owner, Soliman, who was also linked to rice smuggling, would be charged with violation of Philippine trade laws.
“Kagaya ng marami pang kaso ng ismagling ng agricultural products, noon man at ngayon, ang kaso ni Soliman na nalilibing lamang sa limot,” she lamented.
“Smuggling of rice and other agricultural products is a serious and non-bailable offense that undermines the livelihood of our farmers and threatens the country’s food security. Traders behind such illegal activites are economic saboteurs who deserve severe punishment under the law,” Villar added.