Zubiri: Sugar importation kickback may reach up to P600 million | Inquirer News

Zubiri: Sugar importation kickback may reach up to P600 million

/ 05:57 PM August 15, 2022
Kickback from sugar may reach up to P600 million, according to Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri.

Sugar. Stock photo

MANILA, Philippines — Kickback from sugar importations may reach up to P600 million, according to Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri citing his sources.

“My dear colleagues, we were not born yesterday. I think most of us know that importation is a lucrative business,” the Senate leader said during the plenary session.

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Zubiri said that according to his sources, authorities ask for “tongpats” or bribes worth P50 to P100 per bag of imported sugar.

“Let me put it in proper context, 300,000 metric tons of sugar is six million bags. At P50, that is P300 million. At P100, that is an income of P600 million possible tongpats na matatanggap,” he said.

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Zubiri issued these remarks amid the controversy involving an “illegal” resolution for the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar.

“May I make a suggestion during our hearing? Can we do a systemic change in the style of the importation?… Let’s say Coca-Cola needs 50,000 metric tons. Give them the permit to import no more, no less,” the Senate President also proposed.

He then raised these questions: “Are they creating an artificial shortage? Ang masama nito, gusto pa nilang magpasok, mag-import pa (The bad thing is they still want to import). They want to continue importing when we still have stocks that they haven’t released?”

Zubiri likewise called on officials of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) who have been involved in the issuance of the “illegal sugar order” to resign.

He urged the Senate blue ribbon committee to investigate the matter.

“This recent fiasco has put a spotlight not only on the SRA’s blatant disregard for the local sugar industry, but also on its bald-faced attempts to usurp authority. Thus, I ask my colleagues in the Senate, particularly the Blue Ribbon Committee, to open an investigation and get to the bottom of this shameful incident, and see whether cases need to be filed against the persons involved. Let us investigate this, and let us find ways to build a better, more responsive, and more inclusive SRA,” Zubiri said in his privilege speech.

The SRA recently published on its website Sugar Order No. 4 authorizing the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar.

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But the Palace later on denied the document, saying President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. junked the proposed importation.

As an investigation into the fiasco has been ordered, Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian and SRA Board member Atty. Roland Beltran quit their posts.

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TAGS: importation, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Kickback, sugar
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