President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Rex Gatchalian led the distribution of confiscated rice to some 5,000 poor beneficiaries in the Zamboanga Peninsula Region on Tuesday (September 19).
Secretary Gatchalian said the rice distribution in Zamboanga will serve as a kick-off since the more than 42,000 bags of Jasmine rice seized by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) have been donated to the DSWD.
“We expect more than 42,000 poorest Filipinos to benefit from the seized rice by the BOC, which is in line with the President’s directive to crack down on rice smugglers and hoarders,” the DSWD chief said.
The DSWD- Field Office 9 (ZamboPen Region) prepared the list of the 5,000 “poorest of the poor” who will be the first batch of recipients of 25 kilos of the high-grade Jasmine fragrant white rice, according to DSWD Undersecretary for Operations Group Josefina Romualdez.
“There will be simultaneous distribution of 25 kilos of Jasmine rice to 5,000 poorest of the poor beneficiaries in the municipalities of Tungawan and Sibuco and the City of Zamboanga,” Undersecretary Romualdez said.
Usec. Romualdez said, the 5,000 bags of Jasmine rice for distribution on Tuesday was part of the 42,180 bags of imported rice worth P42 million confiscated by the Bureau of Customs-Port of Zamboanga (BOC-POZ) following a raid on a warehouse in Barangay San Jose Gusu, Zamboanga City last May 19, 2023.
During investigation, BOC authorities discovered disparities between the actual seized goods and the descriptions provided in the submitted documents. The payment records submitted referred to a shipment of “White Rice 15% Broken,” while the physical examination confirmed that the confiscated rice was Jasmine Fragrant Rice.
The warehouse also lacked the necessary Sanitary and Phytosanitary Import Clearance (SPSIC) from the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), according to the BOC.
On September 1, the BOC-POZ issued an Order of Forfeiture for violating the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA), Rice Tariffication Law, and Republic Act No. 10845, otherwise known as the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016.
According to BOC-POZ Chief Benny Lontok, they are following the express directive of the President under Executive Order 39, which put a price cap on rice and which authorized intensified efforts to combat smugglers and price manipulators.
“Iyon po ay bilang pagtugon sa directiba ng ating Pangulo at para matugunan po iyong presyo ng bigas kung saan pag-issue ng executive order para magkaroon ng price cap sa pamilihan sa halaga ng presyo ng bigas,” Lontok said, referring to the seizure of the smuggled rice in Zamboanga City.
The BOC said they will conduct more inspections of warehouses following the directive of President Marcos to immediately address the issues of hoarding and rice smuggling.
In late August, the BOC raided three warehouses in Bulacan allegedly storing smuggled rice reportedly worth over PhP500 million.