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Customs blocks importation of 7,000 MT of potentially smuggled sugar

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Customs blocks importation of 7,000 MT of potentially smuggled sugar
Bureau of Customs, Department of Trade and Industry, at Philippine National Police conducted second inspection of a warehouse in Bulacan that is suspected of storing hoarded sugar.
Office of the Press Secretary release

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 11:15 p.m.) — Bureau of Customs officials blocked 7,021 metric tons of sugar from coming into the country from Thailand through Subic Port after learning that the import permit was previously used for an earlier sugar shipment, Malacañang said Friday.

Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service chief Joeffrey Tacio reported that cargo vessel MV Bangpakaew was initially allowed to discharge its load as it was not covered by the withdrawn order to import 300,000 metric tons of sugar.

But Tacio said they found that the import permit used for the shipment was “recycled.”

Acting Customs Commissioner Yogi Filemon Ruiz ordered Customs officials at Subic Port to take into custody the 19 crew members of the vessel, which was loaded with 7,021 metric tons of Thailand white refined sugar equivalent to 140,000 bags and with total tax payment valued at P45,623,007.51.

Initial investigation by Customs revealed that the consignee of the allegedly smuggled sugar is Oro-Agritrade Inc. under the account of ARC Refreshments Corp. under Entry Nos. C-12513 and C-12521.

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

Tacio said the allegedly smuggled sugar is covered by a Special Permit to Discharge and Verified Single Administrative Document from Customs. It also has a verified clearance from the Sugar Regulatory Administration from a certain Rondell Manjarres.

The Office of the Executive Secretary has supposedly received reports that a similar operation of using recycled import permits led to the smuggling of a shipload of imported sugar last week.

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles warned that Customs personnel may be fired if there is evidence that they worked with smugglers in using recycled sugar import permits.

More sugar warehouse raids

Customs agents raided two warehouses of a sugar trader in Bulacan over suspicions that these are storing hoarded sugar, Malacañang said Thursday.

Executive Secretary Victor Rodriguez ordered the CIIS and its Enforcement and Security Service to raid a warehouse owned by Victor Chua along Kaypian Road, Brgy. Kaypian in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan.

During the raid on Wednesday, agents found around 25,000 to 30,000 sacks of different kinds of sugar.

A statement from the Office of the Press Secretary quotes Chua as saying that his sugar stock was bought locally.

The CIIS is doing an inventory of the seized sugar and gave the warehouse owners 15 days to present documents and other evidence to prove that they should not be prosecuted and that the seized sugar should not be forfeited in favor of the government.

Customs agents and the Department of Agriculture also raided Thursday afternoon another warehouse owned by Chua where they discovered 42,733 sacks of sugar which is roughly equivalent to 2,150 metric tons or worth P215 million.

This raid was based on information that Chua has been storing in his warehouse hoarded sugar in the hopes of making huge profits from the high sugar prices.

These are the latest raids of sugar warehouses over alleged hoarding following a similar operation in Pampanga where thousands of sacks of sugar were discovered.

Angeles said at least one of the warehouses inspected in Bulacan and Pampanga were not registered with the SRA. — Xave Gregorio

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