I won't tolerate smuggling, influence peddling: PNoy

September 23, 2015 
Visayan Daily Star (Carla P. Gomez) | http://goo.gl/tb2qu7

The Sugar Regulatory Administration is investigating those responsible for the attempt to smuggle PHP100 million (US$2.14 million) worth of sugar into the country, and using President Benigno Aquino's name in an attempt to seek the release of the shipment held by the Bureau of Customs, according to the Philippines' Visayan Daily Star newspaper.

Those found guilty of such illegal and highly reprehensible act, will be blacklisted by the SRA, in addition to other sanctions which can be imposed under the mandate of the agency, SRA administrator Ma. Regina Martin said yesterday.

Martin lauded the Bureau of Customs (BoC) for resisting reported attempts or intercessions to unscrupulously seek the release of the seized smuggled sugar.

President Benigno Aquino's shooting buddy, former Assistant Transportation Secretary Virginia Torres, reportedly showed up at the Customs-Intelligence Group office on August 20, allegedly to negotiate for the release of at least 64 shipping containers of smuggled Thai sugar, worth more than P100 million, but did not succeed, reports from Manila said.

Martin tagged as "useless" the purported namedropping by Torres of the name of president.

Sugar industry leaders on Sunday called on President Benigno Aquino to investigate Torres.

Manuel Lamata, president of the United Sugar Producers Federation of the Philippines, said the president should have this investigated, and if true, then she should be prosecuted.

Enrique Rojas, president of the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters, said "President Noynoy Aquino should get to the bottom of this issue and prosecute the guilty parties to the fullest extent of the law, not only to serve as an example, but also to preserve the integrity of his administration's anti-corruption campaign".

Martin said records show that the 64 containers containing smuggled sugar have not been issued SRA clearances for release from the BoC warehouse. The non-release of the shipment by the BoC is lawfully proper and in order, she said.

On the strength of the recently-passed Sugarcane Industry Development Act, as well as by virtue of a Joint Memorandum Agreement between the SRA and the BoC, "no imported sugar could be released by the BoC without the pertinent clearance from the SRA," Martin said.

She emphasized that, with respect to imported sugar, an importer or consignee must be a registered international trader not just a domestic trader for SRA to issue clearance for release over the imported sugar.

Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. Monday also said the government is acting against sugar smuggling, noting that the attempt to release the PHP100 million Thai sugar smuggled into the country was denied.