DA files agri smuggling charges against ship captain, crew

The Department of Agriculture (DA) has filed smuggling charges against the ship captain and 14 crew members  of M/V Sunward after they attempted to smuggle white refined sugar into the country.

The ship’s crew includes one Filipino, six Indonesians, and seven Chinese nationals, who now face agricultural smuggling charges at the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Batangas City.

In a statement, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Inspectorate and Enforcement said it has formally filed agricultural smuggling cases against the ship personnel after a joint inspection of the vessel last month.

The DA said the vessel, which came from Thailand, carried PHP400 million worth of smuggled sugar. The value accounts for the 4,000 metric tons of white refined sugar, which was said to be bound for Taiwan but was consigned to a certain Stone International Co., Ltd.

Although the M/V Sunward captain and crew claimed that the vessel was bound for Taiwan, data from the National Coast Watch Center indicated that the contraband was en route to Batangas, the DA said.

The 4,000 metric tons of white refined sugar lack import permits from the Sugar Regulatory Administration, as well as a notice of arrival from the Bureau of Customs. Moreover, the DA said M/V Sunward’s automatic identification system transponder was turned off as it reached the Spratly Islands.

The DA earlier vowed to intensify its campaign against agricultural smugglers to combat the effects of economic sabotage. Earlier, it has also disclosed the seizure of over 8 million kilos of agricultural products worth about P1.5 since last year. ###