“Since the president has already decided on the issue, the pressure is now on the mills to produce as much sugar as they can,” Enrique Rojas, president of the National Federation of Sugarcane Producers, said.*Ronnie Baldonado photo
Sugar groups welcomed President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s revocation of the order that would have allowed the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar, and joined the call for a revamp of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) on Friday, August 12.
Malacañang is investigating the “illegal” issuance of Sugar Order No. 4 (SO4) granting the importation of 300,000 MT of sugar without the authority of the president, Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles announced on Thursday.
The president is concurrent DA secretary and chairperson of the SRA board.
“Heads will roll,” if there are sufficient findings against those involved in the unauthorized signing of the order, Cruz-Angeles reiterated on Friday.
The investigation into the unauthorized signing of the importation order would be “more extensive”, she assured
EO4 was signed for and on behalf of the president by DA Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian without authorization, she said.
It was also signed by SRA Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica, and board members Roland Beltran for the millers and Aurelio Gerardo Valderrama Jr. for the planters.
“We cannot reveal the plans yet because the investigation will probably cover a more extensive review than simply the resolution that was issued by the Sugar Regulatory Board,” Cruz-Angeles said.
The Asociacion de Agricultores de La Carlota y Pontevedra Inc. (AALCPI), the La Carlota Mill District Multi-Purpose Cooperative (LCMDMPC) and the United Sugar Producers Federation (UNIFED) welcomed the scrapping of SO4.
UNIFED JOINS CALL
UNIFED President Manuel Lamata thanked the President for revoking SO 4 and joined the call issued by Senator Imee Marcos to “revamp” the Department of Agriculture and the SRA amidst the investigation into the alleged illegality of the recent sugar order.
“We are joining the call of Sen. Marcos because it is very apparent already that these officials are not looking out for the interest of the industry,” Lamata said.
The fact that SO4 included importation of raw sugar when milling season has already started “indicates these people governing the very agency that is supposed to protect us, are actually out to destroy us,” Lamata added.
RELEASE S03 SUGAR
“With the start of the milling season, the need to import additional sugar is ill advised,” AACLPI and LCMDMPC General Manager David Alba said.
“We are thankful that President Marcos vetoed the order as five mills in Negros Occidental already resumed operations,” Alba added.
He also said that data from the SRA showed that there are 4 million bags of sugar that entered the country through the Sugar Order No. 3 (SO3) import program.
“However, this sugar is not being made available to the Juan De La Cruz since there are in the bodegas of the industrial users, the sector that is obviously given preferential treatment by SRA Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica,” Alba said.
Thus, in order to address the perceived sugar supply shortage in the country, we are recommending to the president to reverse the SO3 and instead release this sugar for the benefit of the consumers and retailers, he added.
Rep. Emilio Yulo III (Neg. Occ., 5th District), a former Sugar Board member, said the importation of 300,000 MT of sugar would have been too much, especially with the start of the milling season.
He also noted that not all of the 200,000 MT allowed to enter for industrial users under SO3 had arrived in the country yet.
“Since the president has already decided on the issue, the pressure is now on the mills to produce as much sugar as they can. Let us hope that other mills will also start milling early to dampen the expected increase in retail sugar prices,” Enrique Rojas, president of the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters, said.
“We also hope that the resulting retail prices will not be too burdensome to our consumers,” he added.
“With his decision to stop the importation, we hope the president will also introduce programs and government support to boost the production of our local farmers, so that we can eventually become self-sufficient in our sugar requirements,” Rojas added.*