Traders warned after hoarded sugar seizure

Executive Secretary Victor Rodriguez on Thursday deemed the current shortage in sugar supply as “artificial” as he warned unscrupulous traders who deliberately downsize production to maximize prices.

The government, he said, will go after them for jacking up prices of food items like sugar, which affects consumers and the food and beverage industries.

He made the remark after the Bureau of Customs raided Thursday a warehouse suspected of hoarding thousands of sacks of sugar in San Fernando City, Pampanga.

“The BoC’s Pampanga sugar warehouse raid may very well serve as a warning to unscrupulous traders who are currently hoarding their stocks of sugar in order to profit from the current artificial sugar shortage situation,” Rodriguez said in a statement.

Office of the Press Secretary said operatives of the Clark-based Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service and Enforcement and Security Service — Quick Reaction Team raided the Lison Building that houses the New Public Market located in Barangay Del Pilar.

Imported sugar

Seized were suspected hoarded sacks of imported sugar from Thailand neatly stockpiled thousands of inside the warehouse.

The CIIS is currently doing an inventory of the said products and gave the warehouse owners 15 days to present necessary documents to prove that the items were legally imported into the country.

The warehouse owners may face charges of smuggling in relation to the provisions of the Customs Modernization Act if proven that the sugar from Thailand was smuggled.

Hoarding, profiteering, cartel, and price manipulations are punishable offenses during a national emergency under RA 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

Under Republic Act 7581 or the 1992 Price Act, protection is provided to consumers by stabilizing the prices of basic necessities and prime commodities and by prescribing measures against undue price increases during emergency situations and similar occasions.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Wednesday bared that the shortage has pushed bottlers to shorten the work week, resulting in lower income for their workers.

According to the Department of Agriculture, the retail price of refined sugar has increased to more than P100 per kilo, P75 per kilo for washed sugar, and P70 for brown sugar in Metro Manila.

Marcos said he is “negotiating now with the traders” to lower the prices up to P70 per kilo.

Intensified raids

Meantime, inspection of sugar warehouses will be intensified, according to Press Secretary Trixie Cruz Angeles.

She clarified that Bureau of Customs agents did not conduct a raid, but only exercised their “visitorial powers” when they checked two sugar mills in Pampanga and Bulacan on Thursday morning.

“This is a series of raids… and possibly more in the coming days,” Angeles said in a virtual press conference.

The Department of Trade and Industry and the Philippine National Police joined BoC in inspecting warehouses.

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