Smuggling of sugar from Thailand foiled at Subic port
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — More than a week after key players in the local sugar industry called on the government to investigate reports of smuggling of the commodity in the country, several shipments of refined sugar worth P150 million were discovered in this free port on Thursday, March.
In a statement, the Bureau of Customs (BOC)-Port of Subic said at least 30,000 sacks of refined sugar from Thailand were found loaded in 58 containers that arrived here on December 22 last year.
The shipments were declared as slipper outsole, styrene and butadiene rubber, the BOC said.
BOC Commissioner Bienvenido Rubio and Subic District Collector Maritess Martin led the examination of the shipments on Thursday after they were alerted by the Department of Agriculture about the smuggling of imported sugar through the Subic port.
Rubio said the shipments would be seized due to violations of Republic Act No. 10863 or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, the Sugar Regulatory Authority and the BOC Joint Memorandum Order No. 04-2002 for having no import clearance for the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA).
But BOC did not disclose the consignees of the shipments.
According to the BOC, two other containers were also found loaded with several misdeclared assorted frozen meat products worth about P40 million.
In August last year, the BOC also intercepted at least 140,000 bags (7,000 metric tons) of sugar from Thailand in this free port. The import documents of the shipment loaded on MV Bangpakaew were allegedly recycled.
On February 22, officials of the big sugar industry associations in the country asked Congress to conduct a full-blown investigation into the alleged smuggling of sugar following an exposé by Senator Risa Hontiveros, who raised before the Senate blue ribbon committee the suspicious entry of Thai sugar into the country through the Port of Batangas.
The senator said the shipment of sugar from Thailand arrived almost a week before the SRA approved the importation of 440,000 MT of the agricultural commodity through Sugar Order (SO) No. 6, which was issued on February 15.
“Since these are not covered by SO 6, there is no other conclusion but to say that these sugar shipments are smuggled. What other conclusion can be drawn other than that this is government-sponsored smuggling?” Hontiveros said at a press briefing.
In a joint statement, leaders of the local sugar industry groups condemned “all acts of sugar smuggling,” saying these constitute “economic sabotage that wreak havoc on the livelihood of thousands of sugarcane farmers, 90 percent of whom are agrarian reform beneficiaries and marginal farmers who rely solely on sugar for their sustenance.”
The statement was issued by Enrique Rojas, president of the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters; Aurelio Gerardo Valderrama Jr., head of the Confederation of Sugar Producers Association Inc.; Pablo Lobregat, president of the Philippine Sugar Millers Association; and Danilo Abelita, Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers president.
—JOANNA ROSE AGLIBOT