Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Sunday, August 22, 2010

BoC goes after sugar smugglers

Apart from the Cebu port, Alvarez said he has instructed the special team to monitor the sugar shipments that particularly arrive in the Port of Subic, Zambales.

Sugar smugglers will find this news a little bittersweet.

The Bureau of Customs (BoC) has created a special team to look into the influx of illegal shipment of sugar products.

Customs Commissioner Angelito Alvarez said the newly formed group is tasked to determine the veracity of reports about rampant sugar smuggling that has affected adversely hundreds of local sugar planters.

“Sugar smuggling is one of our grave concerns right now. We have received reports about it,” Alvarez confirmed at the sidelines of the inspection of seized petroleum products recently.

He said he has basis to believe the reports “so I formed a group.” It is made up of Customs officials from the Intelligence and Enforcement Group.

The National Federation of Sugar Planters of the Philippines has reported rampant sugar smuggling in Cebu, based on the successive operations of joint operatives of the Sugar Anti-Smuggling Office (SASO), the Philippine National Police, the Sugar Regulatory Administration, and the BoC in the province.

The report, however, is being contested by Ronnie Silvestre, BoC district collector for the Port of Cebu, who denied the existence of sugar smuggling in his area of responsibility.

Based on initial estimates, more than 300,000 metric tons of sugar is spirited into the country by smugglers annually to the domestic market.

This amounts to around P9 billion in lost revenue to the industry, at P1,500 per 50-kilo bag.

Apart from the Cebu port, Alvarez said he has instructed the special team to monitor the sugar shipments that particularly arrive in the Port of Subic, Zambales.

Alvarez said he also got reports that some Customs officials may be involved in the sugar smuggling, but refrained from indicting anyone, pending investigation by the special team.

He said part of the task of the team is to unmask any unscrupulous Customs personnel or members of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) who are allegedly involved in the illegal activities.

Alvarez said the crackdown on sugar smugglers is a priority, following mounting reports that reached his office. “Based on these leads given, we immediately pursue it. As the saying goes, when there is smoke, there is fire.” By RAYMUND F. ANTONIO - mb.com.ph

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