01 August 2012

SBMA, BOC deny ‘turf war’, vow close cooperation vs. rice smuggling

Officials of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) yesterday dispelled reports of a “turf war” in connection with the seizure of some P420-million worth of imported rice here, and vowed to work close together to curb attempts to smuggle rice through this free port.

In a joint press conference at the SBMA office here, SBMA Chairman Roberto Garcia and Customs Commissioner Rufino Biazon said the two agencies see eye to eye as far as the implementation of customs and tariff laws are concerned.

“Contrary to what has been reported, there is no truth to allegations that there is a turf war between the Bureau of Customs and the SBMA,” Biazon said.

“We are in close cooperation and coordination,” he added.

Garcia meanwhile said that when it comes to the disposition of the seized shipment, the BOC holds sway because the SBMA simply stands as manager of the free port.

“We have cooperated together in the past — as in the case of the inventory of blue-plate vehicles here — and that is what we are doing now,” Garcia said.

“We also look forward to a more harmonious relationship between Customs and SBMA because there should be more vigilance in face of these attempts to smuggle goods through Subic,” Garcia added.

The two officials issued the clarification on Tuesday following the publication of a news item on Monday, which alleged that the SBMA accused Biazon of having “overstepped his authority in the free port.“

SBMA officials said, however, that nobody in the agency had contested BOC operations in Subic.

“In fact, we have not taken any position regarding the implementation of customs and tariff laws in the free port because we abide by the issuances and orders that emanate from the Customs offices,” Garcia said on Monday.

Biazon said the BOC has issued a warrant of seizure and detention on the illegal rice shipment, which costs around P420 million.

He said the BOC’s move to seize the shipment is now under appeal, but if the detention is warranted, the BOC may sell the illegal shipment at an auction.

He added that there is no proof that the shipment is destined for some cooperatives in the country, as earlier reported in the media.

In Tuesday’s forum, SBMA officials also clarified that the agency had not allowed the shipper to make any declaration after finding out that the rice shipment was not covered by the required documents.

“We did not allow them to make a declaration, and we did not issue them any permit, so they cannot move it out and sell it in the domestic market,” said SBMA seaport operations chief Atty. Redentor Tuazon.

Garcia added that after the 60-day reglamentary period of storage had lapsed, “the matter is already in BOC hands.”

After the press conference, Biazon showed the impounded rice to the media.

He said the BOC is expediting the investigation of the shipment so that the rice may not rot before it is finally disposed of. (HEE/MPD-SBMA)

SBMA Chairman Roberto Garcia (center) and Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon reiterate calls for closer cooperation in the fight against rice smuggling at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.