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Smuggling alert raised for rice, sugar amid tight supply

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Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III has said that supply issues have been contributing to rising inflation, which hit 5.7% in July. -- BW FILE PHOTO

THE Bureau of Customs (BoC) has been ordered to be on the lookout for rice and sugar smuggling, with importers expected to exploit market shortages.

“Finance Secretary Carlos [G.] Dominguez III has ordered the Bureau of Customs to keep a closer watch over the entry of ‘hot’ rice and sugar and speed up the auction of seized stocks amid the current supply and price issues concerning these prime commodities,” the Department of Finance (DoF) said in a statement on Thursday.

“Mr. Dominguez said the BoC should keep tabs on the smuggling of these commodities, given the currently tight domestic supply of both rice and sugar,” which might attract smugglers, it said.

Mr. Dominguez has said that supply issues have been contributing to rising inflation, which hit 5.7% in July.

Customs Commissioner Isidro S. Lapeña said that the agency held a public auction on July 17 for 75,000 sacks of smuggled rice.

It also auctioned on July 18 another 25,000 sacks, with the two auctions generating P177.9 million.

“The amount shall be held in escrow pending final resolution of seizure and abandonment proceedings,” Mr. Lapeña was quoted in a statement as saying.

Mr. Lapeña said the BoC excluded the importer from the public auction.

Apart from rice and sugar, Mr. Dominguez also ordered a similar watch on inbound shipments of fuel, steel, cigarettes, chicken, onions, and garlic, following multiple smuggling attempts detected at various ports. — Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan