Customs starts probes on rice shipment mixed with ammonium sulfate

January 29, 2010 11:14 pm 

By Ferdinand G. Patinio

MANILA, Jan. 29 – The Bureau of Customs (BOC) is investigating the shipment of Vietnam rice that were mixed with 48 sacks of ammonium sulfate in Bacolod City on Wednesday.

Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales ordered the investigation on the shipment that was to the National Food Authority.

NFA officials denied the agency imported the fertilizer.  

Initial information showed that Vietnamese vessel MV Trai Thien was carrying dangerous drugs upon arrival at Bredco Port in Bacolod.

“It (the supposed dangerous drugs) turned out to be 48 bags of fertilizer and it can be used as ingredient in making explosives,” the Customs chief said, adding that those behind its shipment would still be held liable.

Ammonium sulfate is a type of fertilizer but it can also be used as ingredient in making explosives.

Morales said Customs operatives accidentally stumbled on the substance during the unloading of the sacks of rice from the vessel where they noticed that there were also bags of ammonium sulfate initially identified as ephedrine, an ingredient in manufacturing methamphetamine hydro-chloride, or locally known as shabu.

Based on the inward foreign manifest submitted to the BOC, the ship was supposed to have been loaded with 77,000 bags of long white rice, of which 25 percent were broken. They were placed inside polypropylene bags, each wweighing 50 kilograms.

In its crew manifest, authorities said there were 18 Vietnamese nationals on board, including the ship's captain identified as Bui Van Chinh.

But since the ammonium was an “undeclared” shipment, Morales said he would ask the district collector of the Port of Iloilo to issue a warrant of seizure and detention (WSD) against the contraband items and later on be subjected to forfeiture in favor of the government.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA)is assisting the Customs bureau in investigating the shipment.

The vessel would not be allowed to leave the port until the probe is concluded. The ship is reportedly owned and operated by Trai Thien Shipping Co. Ltd. (PNA) RMA/FGP/utb

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