Press Release
February 1, 2010

Senate panel to probe seized contraband - Gordon

Senator Richard J. Gordon today said the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee will investigate the seized contraband found in the shipment of rice imported by the National Food Authority (NFA) from Vietnam.

Gordon, chairman of the Senate panel, said the Blue Ribbon will investigate the rice shipment which was discovered to contain an unidentified white substance last week to ensure that the misdeclaration is not a move to raise election funds

"We should closely monitor large-scale shipments by the government. The discovery of the unidentified white substance in the shipment, one consigned to a government agency at that, is highly suspicious. This cries out for investigation in the Senate," he said.

"In view of the synchronized elections scheduled in May, we should make sure that this is not a move to raise funds for the elections," he added.

Julius Premediles, Bureau of Customs (BOC) sub-port collector in Pulu Pandan, said Vietnam-registered vessel, MW Trai Thien 66 arrived at the Bredco port 3 in Bacolod, Negros Occidental last Jan. 22 containing 77,000 bags of rice consigned to the NFA.

He added the BOC issued on Jan. 27 a hold order on the vessel, its crew and cargo following the discovery the previous day of bags of white crystalline substance in the shipment.

On Thursday, reports said the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Western Visayas announced that its agents found a total of 51 bags of N-methylephedrine in sacks labeled as NFA rice in the shipment. But on Saturday, PDEA officials in Manila announced there were only 48 bags found with the substance.

PDEA officials on Thursday evening and Friday morning confirmed the seized substance to be N-methylephedrine, but later in the day they were saying it was ammonium sulfate.

N-methylepehedrine can be processed into an ingredient in manufacturing shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride). Ammonium sulphate, on the other hand, is a fertilizer component but can also be used in producing explosives.

Gordon, who was in Bacolod City over the weekend, urged local authorities to keep a close watch on the rice shipment to make sure that the misdeclared items that came with the rice are not switched.

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