Under the revitalized anti-smuggling campaign of the administration of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., the Department of Agriculture – Office of the Assistant Secretary for DA Inspectorate and Enforcement (DA IE) formally filed agricultural smuggling cases against the captain and crew of the M/V SUNWARD on February 9 after a joint inspection of the vessel last month yielded P400 M worth of smuggled sugar.
The said vessel carried around 4,000 metric tons (MT) of smuggled white refined sugar from Thailand, which were consigned to Stone International Co., Ltd. and was intercepted by the DA IE, the Bureau of Customs (BOC), and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) during a joint operation in the vicinity of Bauan and Mabini Bay, Batangas on January 13.
Although the M/V SUNWARD captain and crew claimed that the vessel was bound for Taiwan, data from the National Coast Watch Center (NCWC) indicated that the contraband was en route to Batangas and that their Automatic Identification System (AIS) transponder had been turned off within the Spratly Islands.
The DA IE also noted that the shipment lacked the import permit issued by the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) and the notice of arrival from the BOC.
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.
DA Assistant Secretary James A. Layug confirmed that the case is now pending with the Prosecutor’s Office for preliminary investigation.