Palace: Sugar shortage ‘artificial’

Following the discovery of tens of thousand bags of sugar from warehouses across the country, Malacañang has concluded that the sugar shortage is “artificial.”

On Saturday afternoon, Customs operatives swooped down on four warehouses in Guiguinto, Bulacan containing 60,000 bags of suspected hoarded sugar.

“This is the latest sugar warehouse inspection ordered by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to fulfill his promise to consumers and traders to bring out the stocks of sugar in the market as this will bring down sugar prices,” the Office of the Press Secretary said.

“Authorities found imported sugar from Thailand in the inspected warehouses at 50 kilograms per sack. Two of the warehouses were half-full while one warehouse have sacks of sugar neatly stacked up to the roof,” it added.

The four warehouses were located in T12 Polo Land, Ilang-Ilang street in Barangay Tabang, in Bulacan.

The warehouse caretaker told Customs inspectors that the Thailand sugar was delivered Friday evening from the Manila International Container Terminal.

The import permit used for the cargo was the allocation for Sugar Order 3 issued last February by the Sugar Regulatory Administration.

“Customs officials are now conducting verification on the authenticity of the importation documents presented to them by the warehouse caretaker in Guiguinto, Bulacan,” the OPS said.

Marcos had earlier directed Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez to ask the SRA to account for the 63,000 metric tons of sugar from the 200,000 MT importation authorized under Sugar Order 3.

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles announced that the Bureau of Customs and other agencies are continuously inspecting sugar warehouses under the President’s intensified campaign against the illegal importation of agricultural products.

In a span of two days, simultaneous operations were conducted by the BoC, the SRA and the Department of Agriculture to inspect sugar warehouses in Deparo, Caloocan City; Balut in Tondo and San Nicolas in Manila; Rosales, Pangasinan; San Fernando, Pampanga; Ibaan, Batangas and Davao.

Subic shipment legal

The imported sugar shipment from Thailand earlier seized by the Boc at the Subic Port in Zambales over the week was above board, documents from the SRA showed.

SRA deputy administrator Guillermo Tejida III clarified in a radio interview that the 7,000 metric tons of sugar intercepted by Customs operatives at the Subic port onboard vessel M/V Bangpakaew were part of Sugar Order 3 on the importation of 200,000 metric tons of sugar approved by the SRA Board in May.

Tejida’s clarification came after the customs bureau said the importer’s permit was “recycled.”

In a statement, the importer said: “Our importation permit is not recycle, it is open for scrutiny. We hold a valid permit and clearance from the Sugar Regulatory Administration.”

The documents include two certificates of clearance addressed to the Bureau of Customs-Port of Subic, a copy of Sugar Order 3, Series of 2021-2022, and SRA Memorandum Circular 11, which is about the resumption of implementation of Sugar Order 3. They were signed by Tejida.

The SRA stated the clearance is valid until 4 September 2022.

The Thai exporter is listed as Ruamkamlarp Export Co. Ltd., while the local customs broker was identified as Malou Leynes Buerano.

Senate summons SRA officials

In a related development, Senator Francis Tolentino, chair of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, will summon all resigned officials of the SRA involved in the illegal importation order of 300,000 metric tons of sugar, on its scheduled hearing on Tuesday.

“Their resignation was not enough to make them not accountable. Even though they have resigned or no longer connected with the government, they still have accountability (if accusations) were proven true,” Tolentino said in a radio interview.

“The investigation of the executive branch is different from the investigation of the legislative branch. Under the Constitution, investigation of the legislative branch is to make laws to prevent it from happening again,” he added.

Last week, three of the four signatories of the Sugar Order 3 resigned following the sugar fiasco — Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian, SRA chief Hermenegildo Serafica and board member Rolando Beltran.

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