6 BOC-Subic execs ‘reassigned’ amid sugar smuggling probe

Six officials from the Bureau of Customs (BOC)-Port of Subic were relieved from their posts pending investigation into an alleged attempt to smuggle sugar into the country, Malacañang said.

In his Office Order dated August 22, Acting Customs Commissioner Yogi Filemon Ruiz “temporarily transferred” the officials to the Office of the Commissioner from their current position.

“The order shall take effect immediately and shall last until sooner revoked,” Ruiz said.

These officials include Maritess Theodossis Martin, district collector; Maita Sering Acevedo, deputy collector for assessment; Giovanni Ferdinand Aguillon Leynes, deputy collector for operations; Belinda Fernando Lim, chief of assessment division; Vincent Mark Solamin Malasmas, Enforcement Security Service (ESS) commander; and Justice Roman Silvoza Geli, supervisor of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS).

In the meantime, Ruiz designated Willie Sarmiento to be the officer-in-charge district collector for the Port of Subic as a replacement for Martin.

In a separate statement sent to reporters, Ruiz said: “The recall of officials from the Bureau of Customs-Port of Subic is standard procedure while an investigation is being conducted. The BOC will not comment until after the investigation results are completed.”

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles earlier said heads might roll at the BOC if evidence shows that any of the bureau’s port personnel are in connivance with smugglers using recycled sugar import permits.

To recall, the BOC last Thursday averted the possible smuggling of 7,021 metric tons of sugar from Thailand at the Subic Port in Zambales after they learned that the import permit used for the cargo was  “recycled,” meaning it was already used for an earlier sugar shipment.

The cargo vessel MV Bangpakaew was found to be loaded with 7,021 metric tons of Thailand white refined sugar equivalent to 140,000 bags and with total tax payment valued at P45,623,007.51.

Initial probe showed that the consignee of the smuggled sugar is Oro-Agritrade Inc. under the account of ARC Refreshments Corp. under Entry Nos. C-12513 and C-12521.

The Thai exporter is listed as Ruamkamlarp Export Co. Ltd while the local customs broker was identified as Malou Leynes Buerano.

The BOC-CIIS reported that the cargo is covered by a “Special Permit to Discharge (SPD) and Verified Single Administrative Document (SAD)” from BOC and with a verified clearance from the Sugar Regulatory Administration through a certain Mr. Rondell Manjarres.

Upon orders from President and concurrent Agriculture Secretary Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr., the BOC has been using its visitorial powers to inspect warehouses where stocks of sugar were believed to be being hoarded for profit in a bid to address the “artificial” shortage and bring down the price of the sweetener.