Did SRA grant questioned imported sugar clearances?

Has Administrator Dave Alba of the Sugar Regulatory Administration granted clearances for the release of sugar brought into the country by All Asian Counter Trade Inc.?

Sources said he signed 17 clearances for a total of 16,750 metric tons that arrived in the country February 9, 17 and 18 on Monday, February 27.

Alba, however, could not be reached for comment.

Rep. Emilio Yulo (Neg. Occ., 5th District) said he was going over the papers of the sugar that entered the country ahead of the issuance of Sugar Order No. 6 that granted the importation of 440,000 MT, before seeking a congressional probe. It has to be determined whether the sugar can be considered smuggled, he said.

What is important is that the SRA manages the millgate prices of sugar to continue to maintain the profitability level of farmers, he said.

So far the millgate prices have been effectively managed, he added.

He said sugar prices dropped from P3,300 per LKg to P2,800 and returned to the P3,000 level. They will know on Thursday what the new millgate prices will be, he added.

It is too early to say whether the importation of sugar will affect the millgate prices, he said.

What is clear is that the country is expected to have a shortage of sugar, he said.

Production this crop year is expected at 1.9 million metric tons and domestic consumption is from 2.3 to 2.4 million MT, he said.

Senator Risa Hontiveros last week questioned the entry of the imported sugar into the country ahead of the issuance of Sugar No.6.

Three planters’ federations in a joint statement on Monday urged the SRA to perform its mandate in initiating seizure proceedings on the 260 20-footer containers containing approximately 5,000 metric tons of refined sugar that arrived at the Batangas Port prior to the issuance of the sugar order allowing such importation.

The Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations (CONFED) headed by Aurelio J. Valderrama Jr., the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters (NFSP) headed by Enrique D. Rojas, and the Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers (PANAYFED) headed by Danilo A. Abelita enjoined the SRA to hasten its action against what they condemn as an illegal importation of sugar.

“This case of smuggled sugar represents a clear threat to the Philippine sugar industry, because it opens the door for sugar imports, in violation of established procedures and guidelines under existing laws, rules, regulations and regulatory issuances,” they said.

“If left uncorrected, it will encourage further abuse of discretion and the granting of undue advantage to favored individuals or businesses, and it will render as inutile the SRA, the very agency tasked with regulating the movement of sugar within the country as mandated by law,” the planters’ groups warned.

The shipment constitutes “large-scale agricultural smuggling” and is tantamount to economic sabotage under Sec. 3(a) of Republic Act 10845 or the “Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016”, they claimed.

“It is incumbent upon SRA to file a criminal case for Large Scale Agricultural Smuggling against the importer/s for violation of RA 10845, and confiscate or forfeit the illegally imported refined sugar, in accordance with applicable provisions of the Tariff and Customs Code, or intervene in seizure proceedings with the Bureau of Customs,” they said.

They cautioned SRA to refrain from issuing an SRA classification on the questioned imported refined sugar, or if already issued without authority from the Sugar Board, to withdraw or recall the same.

“SRA should provide for a rational and calibrated sugar import program and ensure the observance of a transparent, fair and equitable process of granting import allocations, as earlier proposed,” the planters’ groups reiterated.

They hope that the Senate and the Lower House will conduct the appropriate investigation into this latest sugar importation issue, with the same zeal exhibited during the investigation of the aborted Sugar Order No. 4 last year, the planters added.*

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