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Alleged sugar smugglers slapped with charges —DA

The Department of Agriculture said on Friday that the captain and crew of MV Sunward have been slapped with charges after they were caught trying to smuggle P240 million worth of refined sugar from Thailand into the Philippines.

The DA said the Office of the Assistant Secretary for DA Inspectorate and Enforcement formally filed agricultural smuggling charges on February 9 before the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Batangas City.

In January, personnel from the Customs Police Division-Enforcement and Security Service (CPD-ESS), Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS), and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) apprehended the vessel carrying sugar in the vicinity of Bauan and Mabini breakwaters in Batangas.

The Bureau of Customs said the seized white refined sugar with a net weight of 50 kilograms per bag was consigned to Stone Int'l. Co. Ltd. from shipper The Thai Sugar Trading Corp.

The DA said although the MV Sunward captain and crew claimed that the vessel was bound for Taiwan, data from the National Coast Watch Center (NCWC) stated that the contraband was en route to Batangas and that their Automatic Identification System (AIS) transponder had allegedly been turned off within the Spratly Islands.

Authorities also said the shipment lacked the import permit issued by the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) and the notice of arrival from the BOC.

The DA said the ship’s crew included one Filipino, six Indonesian, and seven Chinese nationals. —VAL, GMA Integrated News