By Jim Lloyd Dongiapon
Agents of the Bureau of Customs (BoC), acting on orders from the Office of the President (OP), made surprise visits to several sugar warehouses in Cagayan de Oro City yesterday, August 23, as part of the continuing campaign of the Marcos administration against sugar hoarders and profiteers involved in the ongoing sugar crisis in the country, state media PTV reported today, August 24.
Equipped with a Letter of Authority (Reference No. 08-22-165-2022) and a Mission Order (No. 08-22-2022-536), BoC agents searched several warehouses belonging to Crystal Sugar Milling Inc. in North Poblacion after receiving information that the company’s owners were allegedly hoarding sugar stocks.
A representative from the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA), as well as security personnel supplied by the local units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) stationed in the municipality of Maramag, assisted BoC agents from Region 10 (Northern Mindanao) during the conduct of the operations.
Approximately 466,142 sacks of raw sugar were discovered in Crystal Sugar Milling’s three warehouses, according to the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS) inventory. Although 264,000 sacks have already been sold to traders, they have not yet been pulled out of the warehouses.
Javier Sagarbarria, who was identified as the warehouse manager of Crystal Sugar Milling, said that the company produces two million bags of sugar annually.
But when the BoC-CIIS requested copies of the sugar transaction documents to verify that the stock of sugar that had been discovered was authorized, he said, “The one holding or safekeeping the documents was not around.”
In less than a week, simultaneous inspections of sugar warehouses have been carried out by the BoC, SRA, and Department of Agriculture (DA) in Deparo, Caloocan City; Balut in Tondo; San Nicolas in Manila; Rosales, Pangasinan; San Fernando, Pampanga; Ibaan, Batangas; and Davao.
Over the weekend, four warehouses in Guiguinto, Bulacan jointly inspected by the BoC, SRA, and DA yielded at least 60,000 bags of suspected hoarded sugar.
After the discovery of enormous quantities of sugar in warehouses in Luzon and Mindanao, Malacañang came to the conclusion that the country’s sugar shortage was “artificial” due to the hoarding of traders in order to profit from the unexpected increase in sugar prices.
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate are currently looking into the sugar supply fiasco that sprung from the controversial Sugar Order Number 4, which approved the importation of 300,000 metric tons (MT) of sugar without the authorization of President Marcos, Jr.