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PIA Press Release

BoC, sugar planters seize Thai sugar

Manila (19 September) -- Customs officials and sugar industry leaders have foiled an attempt to smuggle 24 tons of refined sugar from Thailand with an estimated total commercial value of 9 million pesos which were passed off as tapioca starch.

Loaded in ten 20-footer containers, the shipment was seized by Bureau of Customs (BOC) officials led by Commissioner Napoleon Morales and were opened in the presence of Bukidnon Gov. Joe Zubiri, president of the Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations (Confed).

Zubiri verified the shipment as sugar.

Morales said criminal charges will be filed against the importer, TES Transport International Corp., which brought in the cargo aboard M/V Ever Genius which docked on the Port of Manila last July.

Tipped off by the bureau's own intelligence officers, Commissioner Morales put the cargo "on alert" after its arrival. Confed officials later confirmed that they too received intelligence reports regarding the same shipment.

"Importers misdeclare sugar as tapioca starch because tapioca starch falls under HS 1.03 with an ad valorem rate of 15% as compared to refined sugar, which is classified under HS 1701.99.11 with ad valorem rate of 50%. Also, Sugar is a regulated item which importation requires prior import permit issued by the SRA. Tapioca starch is freely importable item," explained Morales.

He cited today's apprehension as "crucial as it would send the signal that sugar smuggled here would be confiscated and the smugglers would be charged in court.""There should be no welcome mat for smugglers," Zubiri said.

Morales and Zubiri announced a new partnership between the BoC and Confed "in which both will join forces to stop sugar smuggling."Acting on Zubiri's request, Morales said Confed officials "have been authorized access to all ports, Customs areas, and documents to assist the Bureau in stopping any attempt to bring in sugar illegally."Morales said the officials of the Sugar Regulatory Administration "will soon be deputized under the Tariff and Customs Code to perform sentinel duties."An existing joint memorandum order of the BOC and SRA will be reviewed by both parties to include the participation of all stakeholders in sugar industry, led by the Confed.Zubiri said they will deploy observers, "in five ports which we consider as potential sugar smuggling hotspots: Cebu, Manila, Poro Point, Batangas, Davao."Citing production data, he said there is no reason to import sugar as domestic sugar output is enough to meet local demand.

He said raw sugar production rose from 2.138 million metric tons in 2005-2006 cropping year to 2.232 million metric tons in the 2006-2007 season.

As a result land planted to sugar expanded from 377,000 hectares to 388,000 hectares.

An SRA data showed that average retail price of refined sugar went down form P38.73 per kilo to P36.18 last month, "despite the rise in sugar production cost," Zubiri said. (BOC/PIA) [top]

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