By Betheena Kae Unite
A rice trader, whose importation of 100, 000 sacks of rice was seized by the Bureau of Customs Thursday, cried foul saying the shipment was intended to help the government replenish the country’s rice stock.
“I was really sad when I learned about the seizure,” Jomerito “Jojo” Soliman, owner of Sta. Rosa Farm Products Corporation, told the Manila Bulletin late Thursday.
A total of 200 container vans containing 100,000 sacks of Thai rice worth P250 million from Vietnam was seized by the Bureau of Customs at the Manila International Container Port due to incomplete import papers as well as lack of permit from the National Food Authority (NFA).
Soliman did not deny his lack of import documents. However, he said they have already wrote to the NFA asking clearance but as of Thursday, it has no yet been issued by the NFA.
Soliman also admitted that they have yet to pay taxes “because they are still waiting for the clearance stating the percentage they owe the government for the importation.”
Soliman added that the rice importation was intended as his company’s pledge to the government to provide at least 700, 000 sacks of rice to replenish the stock of the NFA. These will be sold in Metro Manila at P35 to P37 per kilo.
Sta. Rosa Farm Products Corporation, according to Soliman, was among the rice traders which have responded to the call of President Duterte to “to be considerate in the pricing of rice so that consumers will not be hurt.”
Documents obtained by the Manila Bulletin only showed that Soliman wrote President Duterte and the NFA, serving notice that he has a ready shipment of imported rice to help the government boost it’s supply.
In Soliman’s letter to NFA Administrator Jason Laureano Aquino on May 17, 2018, he stated that “a part of the 50,000 to 100,000 metric tons of rice shipment is now ready to sail from Omnibus Origins (Thailand, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, China) care of our company, to be finally delivered to the National Food Authority.” Soliman also stated in the letter that Sta. Rosa Farms will “also undertake to pay the 50 percent tariff for the rice shipment under out quota importation.”
Another document showed that Soliman also wrote to President Duterte, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol, and Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapena, through Secretary Bong Go, informing them of his letter to the NFA.
In this letter mailed to the President on April 30, 2018, Soliman said “with this intended rice importation, we hope to be able to sell good quality rice to the Filipino consumer at about P35 per kilo.”
But with the seizure, he said he will wait for the NFA clearance so he can get the shipment back.
But Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña said they will fast-track the legal documents for the seizure of the shipment. They aim to bid or donate the rice shipment to the NFA within five to 10 days.