SC blocks release of questionable rice shipment in Manila

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

THE Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday stopped the implementation of an order from a Manila judge to the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to release 480 containers of imported rice, which was allegedly not cleared by the National Food Authority (NFA).

Customs officers were earlier barred by Judge Cicero Jurado Jr. of the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) branch 11 from “seizing, alerting and/or holding” the rice belonging to St. Hildegard Grains Enterprises owner Danilo Galang, who bought it from a certain Ivy Souza of Bold Bidder Marketing and General Merchandise.

Galang has already paid P28 million representing 10 percent of the cost of rice to Bold Bidder, one of the five consignees that imported some 150,000 metric tons of rice through the Port of Manila last year without import permits from the NFA.

The rest of the questionable traders are Intercontinental Grains, Medaglia De Oro Trading, and Silent Royalty Marketing and Starcraft Trading Corporation, which has been linked to suspected rice smuggling leader Davidson Bangayan.

Galang told the Manila court that the BOC erred in seizing the rice shipment, citing the expiration of World Trade Organization’s (WTO) quantitative restrictions to rice importation on June 30, 2012.

Jurado then issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) on January 16 followed by a preliminary injunction on January 24.

The Office of the Solicitor (OSG) questioned Jurado’s actions before the SC, saying the Philippines is still negotiating with the WTO to extend the import restrictions until 2017.

Because of this, the government said the NFA still has the power to issue import permits as part of the quantitative rice restrictions.

Aside from the TRO, the SC also directed Jurado, Galang and Souza to comment on the government’s petition to invalidate the lower court’s orders within 10 days.

Last month, the SC blocked a Davao court order last December for the BOC to release of 91,800 sacks of rice imported by Starcraft.

The stay order however came too late as Customs Commissioner John Sevilla ordered the release of the shipment worth P21.1 million on January 6 in deference to judge’s order. (Sunnex)

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