THE National Food Authority (NFA) said counterfeit rice import permits (IPs) may be circulating after the agency received reports of unauthorized parties offering them for sale.
NFA administrator Jason L. Y. Aquino said in a statement that the government will apply the full force of the law in prosecuting counterfeiters and those who use their products.
The Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC) notified the NFA on Dec. 22 that it was seeking to verify three IPs allegedly issued to PITC, which aroused suspicions because “PITC has not applied for any rice import permits with NFA and neither authorized any party to apply for and in behalf of PITC for such permits for 2017.”
The IPs involve a 5,000 metric ton (MT) shipment for discharge in Davao, a 7,000-MT shipment for discharge in Cebu, and a 30,000 MT shipment with no specified port of discharge. The documents were dated Aug. 24 in the case of the Davao and Cebu shipments. The third shipment was dated Oct. 10.
The NFA confirmed it did not issue any of the above IPs under the 2017 MAV Rice Importation Program. The agency also clarified that the scheduled arrival of rice imports under Phase 1 of the 2017 MAV was set for between Dec. 20, 2017 and Feb. 28, 2018. Phase 2 imports are to arrive between June 1 and Aug. 31.
“Also… the Import Permit under the 2017 MAV Rice Importation Program has a validity period of only 15 calendar days from the date of issuance and not for one year as specified in the spurious IPs,” the NFA said.
The NFA invoked Republic Act 10845 or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016, which holds violators liable for prosecution as economic saboteurs.
Section 3 covers large-scale agricultural smuggling, which includes “rice, with a minimum amount of ten million pesos (P10,000,000.00), as valued by the Bureau of Customs, committed through any of the following acts: (a) Importing or bringing into the Philippines without the required import permit from the regulatory agencies; (b) Using import permits of persons, natural or juridical, other than those specifically named in the permit; and (c) Using fake, fictitious or fraudulent import permits or shipping documents.”
RA 10845 specifies the penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of twice the value of the smuggled agricultural product in addition to payment of taxes, duties and other charges against anyone found guilty of economic sabotage.