MANILA: The Bureau of Customs (BOC) said that it has filed four reports against Starcraft International Trading Corp and also 12 customs brokers associated with it, for violating Section 3601 of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines and Section 29 of Presidential Decree (PD) Number 4, as amended by PD No 1485.
Sued were Starcraft president Jeffrey Daradal, board directors Eugene Pioquinto, Aveleo Godoy, Anna Orqueta, Brendel Daradal and Jessie Bantula, as well as company representative Hanlie Solema for violating Section 3601 of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines and Section 29 of Presidential Decree (PD) Number 4, as amended by PD No 1485.
12 customs brokers included Denise Kathryn Rosaroso, John Kevin Cisneros, Emilio Chio, Eduardo Borje III, Rosemarie Arciaga, Gerald Villarosa, Jennifer Ann Reyes, Elbert Lusterio, Dianne Re Dizon-Tapia, Laila Silvestre, Francis Rudolph Forneste and Kenneth Quial.
Violation of Section 3601 of the Customs Code carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail and a fine of P50, 000. PD No. 4 metes out a penalty of four years imprisonment and a fine of P8, 000.
According to BOC, Starcraft smuggled into the country 45,000 metric tons of rice worth P1.8 billion. The contraband was sneaked into the country through the ports of Manila, Cebu and Davao between June and November last year. The shipments came from Vietnam, Thailand, China and Singapore.
Citing National Food Authority (NFA) records, Customs said Starcraft had a license to import only 1,176 metric tons through Manila, thus the excess shipment was tantamount to exceeding the NFA’s minimum access volume (MAV) by more than 3,700 percent. The MAV is a quota that restricts the quantity of imports to support domestic growers.
Starcraft had countered Customs’ confiscation of the contraband by filing cases wherein it argued that the MAV already expired in 2012 after the government’s failure to renew the quota. The Philippines had sought WTO approval of the quota extension.
“Our laws were not changed. Import permits for rice were still required. Starcraft cannot unilaterally interpret the laws by itself. Regulation of rice is critical because millions of farmers’ livelihoods depend on rice farming,” said Customs Commissioner John P. Sevilla.
Starcraft is among the country’s top five rice importers. Data from BOC show that Starcraft, along with Intercontinental Grains International Trading, Bold Bidder Marketing, Silent Royalty Marketing and Medaglia De Oro Trading, cornered a combined 75 percent of the 200,000 metric tons of rice imported without NFA permit last year.