Customs foils another sugar smuggling try

The Bureau of Customs thwarted the suspected smuggling of 7,021 metric tons of sugar worth P45 million from Thailand in Zambales, the Office of the Press Secretary announced on Friday.

OPS said BoC agents averted the alleged smugglers at the Subic Port after they discovered that the import permit used for the cargo was “recycled.”

This means OPS said, the import permit was already used for an earlier sugar shipment.

Acting Customs Commissioner Yogi Filemon Ruiz reported the attempted smuggling to Executive Secretary Victor Rodriguez, who earlier tasked the BoC to use its visitorial power to inspect warehouses where stocks of sugar were believed to be being hoarded for profit.

At least 19 crew members of the cargo vessel MV Bangpakaew — where suspected smuggled 140,000 bags of sugar were found — have been immediately taken into custody.

Initial investigation disclosed that the consignee of the smuggled sugar is Oro-Agritrade Inc. under the account of ARC Refreshments Corp. while the Thai exporter is listed as Ruamkamlarp Export Co. Ltd. The local customs broker was identified as Malou Leynes Buerano.

According to OPS, Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service officer-in-charge Joeffrey Tacio reported that the cargo is covered by a “Special Permit to Discharge and Verified Single Administrative Document” from BoC and with a verified clearance from the Sugar Regulatory Administration through a certain Rondell Manjarres.

Recycled permit

“Initially, the said cargo vessel was allowed to discharge its load at 11 a.m. today (18 August), cleared by SRA and BoC because it was not covered by the failed attempt to import 300,000 MT of sugar. This means that the recycled permit was from an old allocation,” CIIS chief Tacio reported to the Executive Secretary.

“This is clearly economic sabotage and this crime is non-bailable,” the report added.

OPS noted that Rodriguez directed the BoC to investigate the possibility that the alleged “locally procured” sugar seized in the two warehouses in San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan were actually imported sugar but were repacked using sacks of local brands.

BoC earlier revealed that at least one of the warehouses inspected in Bulacan and Pampanga was not registered with the SRA on 18 August.

“Suspicions were raised when the owner claimed that the stockpile was the result of slow sales. ‘Matumal’ daw,” Angeles said.

“Dun pa sa hinarang na shipment, gamit pa daw ang permit from Sugar Order No. 3. Kung tutoo ito, lalong nagiging suspicious yung madaliang paglabas ng Sugar Order No. 4.”

The President is looking into importing as much as 150,000 MT of the sweetener after he learned that the “artificial sugar supply shortage” is already affecting top makers of popular drinks and shortening the work week of workers, resulting in lower salaries.

“They are starting to cut down the days of the work week and we are very worried, of course, about jobs. So, that is my priority right now,” he told reporters in his latest press conference.

He explained that while he is hesitant about allowing imports, this would help bring down the costs of sugar and other agricultural products in the Philippine market.

Cheaper sugar

eeding the “appeal” of President Marcos Jr., major supermarkets in the country have agreed to sell sugar at P70 per kilo, Angeles announced on Friday.

In a virtual press briefing, Angeles said from a high of P90 to P110 per kilo, owners of Robinsons Supermarket, SM Supermarket, and Puregold agreed to sell cheaper price of the sweetener.

Retailers will impose a purchase limit of 1 kilo of sugar per consumer.

Consumers can expect a price drop in the leading groceries and supermarkets in Metro Manila next week.

When asked whether there had been a deal between the President and the grocery retailers to attain this, Angeles said it was purely a “request.”

“The President lauded the selfless response from these businessmen who are sacrificing not just their own inventory but also their projected business profits for the sake of the ordinary Filipinos at this time when the country is besieged by many problems,” Angeles said in Filipino.

Angeles disclosed it was Rodriguez who appealed to the owners of the major supermarkets to reduce the prices of sugar as a “way to help ordinary consumers.”

“Lower their prices, at least, temporarily until we have a solution or we can cross it until this September or during the harvest season when we might be able to lower the price of sugar by that time,” she said.

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