The Department of Finance (DoF) directed the Bureau of Customs (BoC), an agency under it, to release confiscated rice and other food items to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for use as disaster relief preparations for Northern Luzon and other areas that will be hit by typhoon Ompong.
“Please release all seized rice and foodstuff in your possession to the DSWD for possible disaster relief,” Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez told BoC Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña, said the directive was in response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to all government agencies to ensure the highest level of readiness for the typhoon.
“Government-to-government transfers in emergency situations can be legally fast-tracked,” he said.
Lapeña earlier had reported to the DoF the seizure in July of 50,000 sacks of rice loaded in some 100 container vans at the Manila International Container Port (MICP) valued at P125 million.
“The shipment from Thailand was consigned to the Sta. Rosa Farm Products Corp., but without the necessary import permits,” Lapeña said.
Goods that are up for disposal under the BoC “may be donated to another government agency or declared for official use by the bureau, after approval of the Secretary of Finance, or sold at a public auction within 30 days after a 10-day notice posted at a public place at the port where the goods are located and published electronically or in a newspaper of general circulation,” based on the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.
The law also mandated that goods suitable for shelter, food items, clothing materials and medicines “may be donated to the DSWD.”
“Ompong” is expected to slam the northern province of Cagayan early today and bring heavy rains within its 900-kilometer radius.
Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua said the House ways and means committee had followed up on his proposal on the donation of the seized rice stocks during a roundtable discussion last month organized by the panel to discuss the status of the social mitigation programs under the first tax reform law.
Quirino Rep. Dakila Carlo Cua earlier had proposed that smuggled rice be donated to families affected by the recent typhoons.
The lawmaker said during the hearing that rather than auction off the stocks, which could possibly end up in the hands of smugglers who use dummies to buy these back, it would be better for the BoC to just donate them to flood victims.
Dominguez had also directed the BoC to keep a closer watch on the entry of “hot” stocks of rice and sugar.