PORT of BATANGAS, Batangas City — The Department of Agriculture (DA) said Friday it slapped the captain and 14 crew of M/V Sunward with charges after attempting to smuggle white refined sugar into the Philippines.
“The ship’s crew, which consists of one Filipino, six Indonesian, and seven Chinese nationals, are now facing agricultural smuggling charges in the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Batangas City,” the DA said in a statement.
It said the Office of the Assistant Secretary for the DA Inspectorate and Enforcement formally filed agricultural smuggling cases against them on Feb. 9 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 trans-ponder was turned off as it reached the Spratly Islands.
The 15 individuals now face charges for the alleged violation of Republic Act 10845, or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016.
The DA earlier vowed to intensify its campaign against agricultural smug-glers to combat the effects of economic sabotage.
Before this, the department disclosed the seizure of PHP1.5 billion worth of smuggled agricultural products covering more than 8 million kg. of products since October 2022.| (PNA)