MANILA – The seizure of about 7,000 metric tons (MT) of sugar at the Subic Port in Zambales is a confirmation of reports reaching the Office of the Executive Secretary (OES) that Sugar Order (SO) No. 4, which was disapproved by Malacañang, could have been used as cover for sugar smuggling.
But since SO 4 was scrapped, those behind the attempted smuggling of 140,000 bags of sugar in Subic have resorted to using “recycled import permits,” which refer to permits for old allocations, such as those issued by the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) for Sugar Order No. 3 approved last February.
Executive Secretary Victor Rodriguez earlier raised suspicion on why the SRA could not account for the 63,000 MT of sugar, which was the balance from the 200,000 MT under SO 3 approved by the Sugar Regulatory Board.
Reports reaching the OES indicated that a similar modus using “recycled import permits” resulted in the smuggling last week of a shipload of imported sugar in Subic Port.
The report from the OES identified several persons who allegedly control Subic Port, including a certain “Buboy” and “Reggie” who both use “ Kysse Lish” and “Foxxie” as consignees.
“This is clearly economic sabotage and this crime is non-bailable,” the report from the OES said.
Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said heads may roll at the Bureau of Customs (BOC) if evidence shows that any of the bureau’s port personnel are in connivance with smugglers using recycled sugar import permits.
She further said at least one of the warehouses inspected yesterday in Bulacan and Pampanga was not registered with the SRA.
“Suspicions were raised when the owner claimed that the stockpile was the result of slow sales. ‘Matumal’ daw (slack sales),” Cruz-Angeles said.
“Dun pa sa hinarang na shipment, gamit pa daw ang permit from Sugar Order No. 3. Kung totoo ito, lalong nagiging suspicious yung madaliang paglabas ng Sugar Order No. 4 (On the blocked shipment, it said that the permit from Sugar Order No. 3 has been used. If this is true, the sudden release of Sugar Order No. 4 becomes more suspicious),” she added.
On orders from President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the executive secretary had ordered law enforcement authorities to visit and inspect all customs bonded warehouses to check the inventory of imported agricultural products with the aim of finding out if there is sugar hoarding.
Rodriguez also directed law enforcers to investigate the possibility that the alleged “locally procured” sugar seized in the two warehouses in Bulacan was actually imported sugar but was repacked using sacks of local brands.
It can be recalled that Rodriguez told Manila Times columnist Rigoberto Tiglao that his office is investigating reports that the 300,000 MT importation being pushed aggressively by certain traders intend to use it as a "cover" for them to release the sugar they had hoarded but couldn't release as this would depress prices.
“One report said this could result in windfall profits for them of at least PHP300 million, and a part of this amount has been mobilized as lobby money,” Tiglao wrote in his August 17 column.
“The surprise visits in the Pampanga and Bulacan warehouses should 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.
On Thursday afternoon, Customs personnel in the Port of Subic averted the possible smuggling of 7,021 metric tons of sugar from Thailand after they learned that the import permit used for the cargo was “recycled.”
Under custody at the Subic Port are the 19 crew members of the cargo vessel MV Bangpakaew, which was found to be loaded with 7,021 metric tons of Thailand white refined sugar equivalent to 140,000 bags and with total tax payment valued at PHP45,623,007.
Initial investigation showed that the consignee of the smuggled sugar is Oro-Agritrade, Inc. under the account of ARC Refreshments Corp. under Entry Nos. C-12513 and C-12521.
The Thai exporter is listed as Ruamkamlarp Export Co. Ltd. while the local customs broker was identified as Malou Leynes Buerano.
The Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service reported that the cargo is covered by a “Special Permit to Discharge (SPD) and Verified Single Administrative Document (SAD)” from BOC and with a verified clearance from the SRA through a certain Rondell Manjarres. (OPS)