The Bureau of Customs seized 200 container vans of smuggled Thai rice worth more than P250 million at the Manila International Container Port, Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña said Thursday.
He said it was the biggest interception made by the bureau since he assumed his post.
He made his statement even as President Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday the rice self-sufficiency target may not be achieved before his term ends in 2020 as a result of the growing population and shrinking agricultural land.
“I do not believe that we can be rice sufficient,” Duterte said in his speech during the signing of a memorandum of agreement between the Commission on Higher Education and 112 state universities and colleges and 78 local universities in Malacañang.
Agriculture Secretary Manuel Piñol had earlier projected that the country would achieve rice self-sufficiency in 2020.
“What Piñol said at the years’ end, that was only a story,” Duterte said in jest.
“If you ask me, in the next how many years we will just have to import rice,” he said.
The rice shipment intercepted by Customs was consigned to Sta. Rosa Farm Products Corp., but it did not have the permits from the National Food Authority, Lapeña said.
He said the necessary taxes and duties to import the rice were also unpaid.
The intercepted rice may be auctioned off within five to 10 days with the assistance of the NFA.
The seizure of smuggled rice may somehow help improve the stocks of rice in Metro Manila.
Meanwhile, Customs also destroyed P22 million worth of smuggled goods including fake cigarettes, office supplies, clothing, and shoes apparel.
The smuggled goods came from China, Lapeña said and again warned that the bureau will strictly monitor all shipments to stop smuggling in the country. With PNA