Agri group wants culpability of officials involved in sugar import fiasco
MANILA, Philippines — An agriculture group on Monday said the probe into the illegal resolution that authorized the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar into the country should also include the culpability of the officials involved, also calling for an inquiry into the sudden increase in the prices of sugar.
This was stated by Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag) chairman Rosendo So who explained that the resignation of then Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian should not shield him, as well as other officials, from criminal liability.
So, himself, recalled that no tacit approval was given during a previous meeting with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez and Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) officials.
“During our meeting, there was no final agreement on the need to import sugar as the SRA has yet to hold consultations with other stakeholders such as the producers, retailers, distributors and repackers,” said So.
Instead, So said the directive given to the SRA was to conduct consultations to determine if there is an actual supply shortfall that would merit importation.
Sebastian, however, signed the importation order without the approval of Marcos, who, as DA chief, is also the chairman of the SRA.
“The instruction of the ES and the President’s office is to determine carefully why the price of sugar suddenly increases. So the SRA should have talked first with local producers to determine why there is a sudden surge in the domestic prices of sugar,” So said.
“The Department of Agriculture and the SRA are claiming that there is a shortfall of only 100,000 metric tons of sugar. But why did they approve the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar?” he added.
Monitor other prices
Meanwhile, So said Marcos had urged local stakeholders to communicate with the DA “to determine if there is food shortage.”
“We were instructed by Executive Secretary Rodriguez that we should monitor the price of not only sugar but also pork and chicken, and to keep it affordable,” So said.
“The price of white onion is high and that is a problem, but we have enough supply of red onions,” he added.
This came amid a probe initiated by the House of Representatives to look into the said resolution that sought to import 300,000 MT of sugar.
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