EO4 on sugar imports ‘illegal’, many heads could roll: Palace

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles announcing the Palace investigation into the issuance of the unauthorized order granting the importation of sugar at a press briefing on Thursday.*

Malacañang is investigating the “illegal” issuance of Sugar Order No. 4 granting the importation of 300,000 MT of sugar without the authority of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles announced in a press briefing Thursday, August 11.

EO4 was uploaded on the website of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) on Wednesday and later deleted.

“An investigation is ongoing to determine whether any acts that will cause the President to lose trust and confidence in his officials can be found, or if there is malice or negligence involved,” Cruz-Angeles  said.

“In such a case, if such findings are made then the only determination left will be how many heads are going to roll,”  she added.

Sugar Order No. 4 Series of 2021-2022 dated Tuesday, August 9, set the second import program for crop year 2021-2022 that allowed the importation of 300,000 MT of sugar.

“It appears that the resolution was signed for and on behalf of the President by (Department of Agriculture) Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian. He was not authorized to sign such a resolution because the President did not authorize the importation,” Cruz-Angeles said.

The president is concurrent DA secretary and chairperson of the SRA board.

EO4 was also signed by SRA Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica, and board members Roland Beltran for the millers and Aurelio Gerardo Valderrama Jr. for the planters.

“You don’t convene the Sugar Regulatory Administration board in the absence of the president and in the absence of any such approval on his part. He did not approve the convening,” Cruz-Angeles said.

 “We were shocked and disgusted with the zarzuela made by the sugar board that acted illegally in issuing SO4. They made us believe that this went through proper consultation and had the imprimatur of the president,” Manuel Lamata, United Sugar Producers Federation president, said.

“We are thankful that the order was revoked as we are against importation, especially of raw sugar now that milling operations has started,” he said.

Negros Occidental Vice Governor Jeffery Ferrer said he is thankful to the president for being hands on and immediately acting on the matter.

After a thorough investigation the culprits should be penalized, Ferrer. 

The press secretary said Malacañang   is investigating the unauthorized signing  and will impose penalties if necessary. No preventive suspension has been issued for now, she said.

Agricultural importations are a sensitive matter that need to be “carefully studied”, she said.

“Sugar is one such importation which we take great care with. It is a balancing act. The importation has to be carefully studied to protect both the consumer against the rising prices of basic commodities while ensuring at the same time that we do not destroy the local industry,” Cruz-Angeles said.

Although Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez issued a verbal order to create an importation plan, the President did not express his approval to the importation of the 300,000 MT, she said.

She said because importation of sugar could affect the harvest prices of local sugarcane growers, SO4 “should not have been issued with such haste.”

“We just imported last May. We have to determine if another importation supposedly to address the critical levels that are approaching at the end of the month will affect the harvest season which opens in September. So again, a study is necessary,” she said.

Sugar Order No. 3 in May granted the importation of 200,000 MT of sugar for industrial users.

Retail prices of refined sugar per kilo have breached the P100 mark and the DA has attributed this to tight supply.*

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