The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) is intensifying its cooperation with the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to guard against the smuggling of goods outside the Freeport’s borders.
“The SBMA is very vigilant about cases like this and we are closely working with the BOC to ensure that Subic Bay’s tax-free regime is not being used and abused in attempts to smuggle out goods from the Freeport,” SBMA Administrator Wilma Amy T. Eisma said.
At the same time, Eisma denied reports of rice smuggling in the Freeport, saying the agency will not allow any rice shipment to even enter Subic Bay waters under SBMA jurisdiction without a permit from the National Food Authority (NFA).
She said that before any rice shipment or any cargo comes into the Freeport, these should first undergo strict evaluation by the SBMA.
The SBMA Administrator was responding to information reportedly received by Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol that Subic Bay Freeport is being used as an entry port to smuggle rice inside the country.
“Tinatanong muna namin kung may permiso yan sa NFA. Kung walang permiso, wag na kayong dumaong,” Eisma said in a radio interview.
Furthermore, she added that apart from it being a regulated product, rice is usually shipped as bulk cargo and it is only when it reaches the pier that the grains are packed in sacks thereat, making it difficult for someone to hide the shipment.
Eisma clarified that the task of guarding against smuggling is not solely on SBMA’s shoulders, but more so, it is the responsibility of the customs bureau.
“Under the law, one can pretty much bring anything into the Freeport for as long as it is not illegal. The important thing is that these goods should not be brought out of the Freeport without paying the proper duties and taxes,” she said.
“Ang pagbabantay po ng pagbabayad ng buwis ay nasa Bureau of Customs, kaya po dalawa na po kaming nagbabantay,” Eisma said. (RBB/MPD-SBMA)