Customs agents raid Pampanga sugar warehouse

(Office of the Press Secretary photo)

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO — Agents of the Bureau of Customs (BoC) on Thursday raided a warehouse in this city suspected of hoarding thousands of sacks of sugar amid consumer complaints on the high price of sugar in the market.

Operatives of the Clark-based Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS) and Enforcement and Security Service (ESS) – Quick Reaction Team raided the Lison Building that houses the New Public Market located in Barangay Del Pilar here. 

Barangay officials and the local unit of the Philippine National Police assisted the BoC agents.

(Office of the Press Secretary photo)

The raid was made on orders from Executive Secretary Victor Rodriguez, acting on a directive from President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., for the BOC to exercise its visitorial powers to all customs bonded warehouse and to check on the inventory of imported agricultural products with the aim of finding out if there is hoarding of sugar.

“The BoC’s Pampanga sugar warehouse raid may very well 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.

Rodriguez earlier told Manila Times Columnist Rigoberto Tiglao that his office is investigating reports that the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar was being pushed aggressively by certain traders who 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.

(Office of the Press Secretary photo)

Reports reaching the Office of the Executive Secretary said such massive importation of sugar could result in windfall profits for the traders of at least P300 million with a portion of the amount earmarked as lobby money.

Armed with a Letter of Authority (LOA) Number 08 15 149 2022 and Mission Order (MO) No. 08 15 2022 519,the Customs personnel immediately seized suspected hoarded of sacks of imported sugar from Thailand neatly stockpiled by the thousands inside the warehouse.

BoC agents also seized hundreds of sacks of sugar found loaded inside delivery vans. 

A Chinese-Filipinos warehouse keeper identified as Jimmy Ng received a copy of the LOA and MO from the BOC agents who also found several imported items such as sacks of corn starch from China, sacks of imported flour, plastic products, oil in plastic barrels, motorcycle parts and wheels of different brands, helmets, LED Televisions sets and paints.

The CIIS is currently doing inventory of the said products and gave the warehouse owners 15 days to present necessary documents to prove that the items were legally imported into the country. 

If proven that the Thailand sugar were smuggled, the warehouse owners may face charges of smuggling in relation to the provisions of The Customs Modernization Act (CMTA).

Under the CMTA, for the BoC to exercise the power to inspect and visit, its personnel must be equipped with a Letter of Authority, which is a special authorization exclusively issued by the Commissioner of Customs.

The BoC may exercise its police authority through seizure, require assistance and information from National Law Enforcement Agencies, enter properties, vessel or aircraft searches (including persons or goods conveyed therein), searches of persons arriving from overseas, and controlled delivery investigations. 

Among other ways and methods, the BoC can exercise its police authority through inspection and visits. This is a new power introduced by the CMTA following the repeal of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines.

The power to inspect and visit authorizes the BoC to demand evidence of payment of duties and taxes on imported goods openly offered for sale or kept in storage. 

For reasons of security, safety, and economy, the BoC may constitute the premises where the goods were found as a special customs area for the duration of the exercise of the power. During this period, the goods are deemed, for all intents and purposes, in customs custody; the owner of the goods will be unable to remove, sell, or dispose of such goods.

Under the 1992 Price Act (R.A. 7581), protection is provided to consumers by stabilizing the prices of basic necessities and prime commodities and by prescribing measures against undue price increases during emergency situations and similar occasions.

Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act enumerated the punishable offenses during the three-month declaration of a national emergency. Among the offenses punishable under the R.A. 11469 are hoarding, profiteering, cartel, and price manipulations.

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