03 August 2012

Amira C. Foods airs side

AMIRA C. Foods, DMCC, which was recently tagged in news reports in connection with the reported shipment of Indian rice allegedly smuggled into Philippine territory through the Subic Bay Freeport, yesterday broke its silence on the issue.

In a press statement issued by its legal counsels from the Ongkiko Mahit Custodio and Acorda Law Offices, the Amira C Foods said it is a company duly established and existing for more than 50 years, with international presence as a seller of rice products in at least 40 countries, has a reputation to uphold and would never contemplate being a party to any illegal activities.

Denying the allegation that the rice was originally destined for Subic Bay Freeport as ‘completely false, Amira said that in the conduct of the ordinary course of its business, it received an order from an Indonesian importer in November 2011. The order consisted of five cargo ships that were to be shipped from India to Indonesia.

MV Vinalines Mighty, the ship subject of this controversy, was one of the ships included in this dispatch. MV Vinalines Mighty, however, arrived late in Indonesia. Consequently, it was not permitted to unload its cargo in Indonesia, the original port of destination.

Specifically, MV Vinalines Mighty, sailed from India on February 24, 2012, reached Indonesia on March 8, 2012 and stayed in Indonesian waters until March 27, 2012, thus making Amira faced with the prospect of either finding another buyer or re-shipping the goods back to India.

“We raised these facts with the Bureau of Customs and even attached to the appeal the shipment and communication documents that would show the transaction between itself and the Indonesian importer. Even the goods subject of the seizure proceedings have original markings of the Indonesian importer showing its intended recipient,” the statement said.

Considerations of perishability of the goods and the enormous costs of shipping the goods back to India prompted Amira to start looking for free ports in nearby countries, for the purpose of temporarily storing the goods pending determination of its final destination.

Of the many free ports considered, the one free port that presented the most attractive prospect in terms of costs was the Subic Special Economic Zone (“ Subic SSEZ”) under the auspices of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (“SBMA”). It had comparably lower operating costs such as un-loading and warehousing fees.

Thus, Amira inquired with SBMA about transshipment facilities in the Subic SSEZ and retained Metro Eastern Trading Corporation (“Metro Eastern”), a duly licensed SBMA authorized locator. On March 26, 2012, Amira signed a Memorandum of Agreement (“MOA”) with Metro Eastern for transshipment, handling, safekeeping, warehousing, and unloading of the shipment once it arrives in Subic SSEZ.

After signing the agreement with Metro Eastern, on March 27, 2012, “MV Vinalines Mighty” sailed from Indonesia and arrived at Subic SSEZ on April 4, 2012. The subject cargo was completely unloaded by Metro Eastern under the auspices of SBMA and BOC personnel by April 19, 2012.

Amira said it did not misdeclare or conceal the goods upon arrival. Neither has it attempted to remove the goods from the warehouse.

News reports reveal that the goods have been abandoned. This is belied by the facts of the case. (People's Tonight)