BOC lauds SC's TRO on Davao illegal rice importation

February 27, 2014 9:47 am 

MANILA, Feb. 26 — The Bureau of Customs (BOC) lauded the decision of the Supreme Court (SC) to issue a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) stopping the implementation of the ruling of a Davao City Regional Trial Court (RTC) on the release of rice importations.

“This is good news for the Bureau of Customs and even better news for our farmers. The action taken by the Supreme Court should serve as a strong signal to judges that injunctions issued by the lower courts pertaining to rice importations without permits are at the very least questionable or suspect,” said Customs Commissioner John Sevilla in a statement.

He added, “The Magistrates of the High Tribunal are closely watching this issue, judging by their prompt action on our application for a TRO. We are committed to challenging court orders that favor illegal rice importations that no doubt have a devastating effect on our farmers.”

The TRO bars the enforcement of an order issued by RTC Branch 16 Judge Emmanuel Carpio last December 12, 2013 that restrains the District Collector of the BOC in the Port of Davao from seizing, alerting or holding rice shipments of petitioner Joseph Ngo, a businessman who purchased rice imported by Starcraft International Trading Corporation.

The order is effective immediately until further orders from the Court.

The High Court considered “meritorious” the arguments raised by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) regarding the lack of adequate representation of the BOC during the hearings before the Davao RTC and the lack of legal standing of Ngo to sue.

The case stemmed on the petitioner's purchased of 15 shipments containing 91,800 bags of white rice either from Thailand or Singapore but Ngo was informed that the shipments could not be released without proper import permits from the National Food Authority (NFA) prompting him to file a complaint before the court and sought for an injunction.

In his petition, he cited the expiration of the Special Treatment for Rice Importation under the World Trade Organization meant that quantitative restrictions such as requiring import permit on the importation of rice may no longer be imposed.

With the TRO issued by the Supreme Court in effect, the BOC can continue to hold the remaining 85 containers of rice imported by Starcraft that are being held at the Port of Davao.

“The TRO issued by the Supreme Court clearly establishes the legal right of the Bureau to hold these rice shipments. We earnestly hope that the OSG can help us secure similar rulings in the Manila and Batangas RTCs whose injunctions have helped rice smugglers,” Sevilla added.

To date, the BoC has put on hold a total of 1,822 container vans of rice that were imported without the required import permits from the NFA through the ports of Manila, the Manila International Container Port. Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Batangas and Davao, accounting for an estimated 50,000 metric tons. (PNA)



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