P15M illegal fresh veggies shipment seized in Subic Freeport

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT – Some P15 milion worth of fresh vegetables illegally shipped from China were confiscated here on Thursday through the coordinated efforts of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), Bureau of Customs-Port of Subic (BOC-Subic), and the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry (DA-BPI).

SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma said the fresh vegetables were found inside five 40-footer container vans that were declared to contain frozen assorted vegetables and consigned to Saturnus Corp., an importer based in Metro Manila.

The shipment was initially flagged on October 13 by authorities here for non-compliance with the approved sanitary and phytosanitary import clearance (SPS-IC) on temperature requirement and for ingress of non-importable fresh vegetables.

“We found out that the shipment contained chilled fresh vegetables that are considered illegal for importation into the country. These included various fresh produce such as water bamboo, mushrooms, broccoli, and other vegetables,” Eisma said.

The shipment was also found to contain undeclared agricultural products like sweet oats, she added.

Eisma, along with BOC District Collector Marites Martin and Agriculture Assistant Secretary for Economic Intelligence Federico Laciste Jr., inspected the contraband at the New Container Terminal here on Thursday afternoon.
Martin said her office already issued warrants of seizure and detention for the shipment, stressing that the consignee Saturnus Corp. was only given a permit to import frozen vegetables.

She stressed that the temperature of frozen commodities should be at -18 degrees Celsius, but that the refrigerated containers in the Saturnus shipment were at -1 degrees Celsius. “Thus, the issued SPS   Importation clearance is not applicable in the instant importation,” Martin added.

She said the Port of Subic “will definitely remain fully committed in securing the country’s borders from the entry of prohibited, smuggled goods, and all other illicit trades.”

Agriculture Asec Federico Laciste Jr., who is also the co-chair of the Economic Intelligence Sub-Task Group on Food Security, said the seizure of the illegal shipment was the “result of concerted efforts between government agencies such as the SBMA, DA-BPI, BOC, DTI, and other offices through the Economic Intelligence Sub-Task Group on Food Security.”- more –
He pointed out that the shipment violated the agency’s Administrative Order No. 18, series of 2000, and Sec. 19 of DA Department Circular 4, series of 2016, in relation to Section 1113 (f) of Republic Act No. 10863 otherwise known as the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA).

Meanwhile, SBMA Senior Deputy Administrator for Operations Ronnie Yambao said that the inter-agency team made a thorough search of the shipment, including a probe for any illegal drug or substance in the shipment, after initially finding violations on Wednesday.

He said the concerned agencies conducted a 10 percent physical examination of the shipment in the presence of the broker’s representative, and personnel of the BOC and SBMA.