MANILA — Authorities foiled the "possible smuggling" of some 7,000 metric tons of sugar at the Subic Port in Zambales, in line with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s directive to curb the illegal importation and hoarding of the sweetener, Malacañang said on Friday.
The Bureau of Customs (BOC) seized the shipment of 140,000 bags of white refined sugar with total tax payment valued at P45.6 million after discovering that its import permit was "recycled" and already used for an earlier shipment, said the Office of the Press Secretary.
The BOC took in its custody 19 crew members of the cargo vessel MV Bangpakaew, which was carrying the shipment.
The cargo is covered by a special permit to discharge and a verified single administrative document from the BOC. It also had verified clearance from the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA), said the Palace.
It said the Office of the Executive Secretary received reports that a similar modus using "recycled import permits" resulted in the smuggling last week of a shipload of imported sugar.
"This is clearly economic sabotage and this crime is non-bailable," the office said.
Authorities this week also seized some 44,000 sacks of suspected smuggled sugar with an estimated value of P220 million from warehouses in Pampanga and Bulacan.
One of the warehouses was not registered with the SRA, the Palace said.
“Suspicions were raised when the owner claimed that the stock pile was the result of slow sales. ‘Matumal’ daw,” Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said.
“Dun pa sa hinarang na shipment, gamit pa daw ang permit from Sugar Order No. 3. Kung tutoo ito, lalong nagiging suspicious yung madaliang paglabas ng Sugar Order No. 4,” she added.
(Meanwhile, the intercepted shipment used a permit from Sugar Order No. 3. If this is true, the hasty release of Sugar Order No. 4 was even more suspicious.)
The SRA through Sugar Order 4 had authorized the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar. But the Palace said the order was "illegal" and signed on behalf of Marcos without his authorization.
Sugar prices have spiked to around P100 a kilo in some markets.
Marcos this week agreed with stakeholders to import around 150,000 metric tons of sugar, half of what the SRA originally planned.