Visitorial power, not raid says BoC

The Bureau of Customs did not conduct a series of raids but an “exercise of visitorial power” to several sugar warehouses around the country amid a reported shortage of the sweetener locally, Press Secretary Trixie Cruz Angeles reiterated on Saturday.

The Press Secretary, in a social media post, noted that under Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (Republic Act 11469), the President has the “power to ensure measures to protect the people from hoarding, profiteering, manipulation of prices, cartels, or other pernicious practices.”

These practices, Angeles said, include those affecting the supply, distribution, and movement of food and other articles of prime necessity, whether imported or locally produced, or manufactured.

“In the past week, President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. directed the BoC to exercise visitorial powers to importers as one of the measures in the issue of price hike and artificial supply shortage of sugar in the country,” Angeles said.

Angeles, a lawyer, explained that such power is exercised, through the conduct of inspections of warehouses, on reports of alleged smuggling.

Smuggling of agricultural products, she noted, violates several laws in customs, and the Price Act (Republic Act 7581).

“Sugar is among those enumerated in the Price Act as basic necessities on which the BoC and other relevant government agencies acted upon,” she said.

Last week, BoC agents found around 466,142 sacks of raw sugar during surprise visits to several warehouses in Cagayan de Oro City.

BoC said it conducted the operation due to intelligence reports that the owners are allegedly engaged in the hoarding of stocks of sugar.

In less than a week, simultaneous operations were conducted in Deparo, Caloocan City; Balut in Tondo and San Nicolas in Manila; Rosales, Pangasinan; San Fernando, Pampanga; Ibaan, Batangas; and Davao.

Authorities have given warehouse owners 15 days to present necessary documents to prove that the items found during the visits were legally imported into the country.

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