Ex-DA exec denies someone pressed him into signing sugar import order
MANILA, Philippines — Former Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian denied on Tuesday that someone urged him to sign the controversial order authorizing the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar.
During the blue ribbon committee hearing, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and Senator Raffy Tulfo questioned Sebastian to reveal who urged him to sign Sugar Order No. 4, which President Ferdinand Marcos Jr rejected.
Marcos concurrently serves as Department of Agriculture (DA) chief and chairman of the board of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA).
Sebastian asserted that he signed the order as he has authority based on a memorandum issued by Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez.
“There was nobody who pushed me or pressured me on this matter. I signed for the Secretary of Agriculture (Marcos) based on the authority that was given to me on July 15, 2022,” said Sebastian.
“The memo states that I can sit as ex-officio chair of boards, committees, etcetera of any government agency where the secretary of agriculture is a member. The SRA (Sugar Regulatory Administration) board is one those boards where the secretary of agriculture sits as ex-officio,” he added.
The sugar supply shortage is doubted by Zubiri, who noted around 120,000 metric tons of unreleased sugar in warehouses.
Sebastian justified that the country’s monthly consumption of raw sugar is 170,000 metric tons and 85,000 metric tons of refined sugar.
He pointed out that the country will have a deficit of over 200,000 metric tons of raw sugar. Hence, the decision to sign the importation order.
“Based on the data we have from SRA and DA, we will have a deficit of 212,000 metric tons for raw sugar even if the milling has started in September and October,” the former Agriculture official explained.
“It is only in November that we will be able to produce enough raw sugar to meet our demand,” he continued.
Following the sugar importation fiasco, Sebastian resigned from his position along with SRA chief Hermenegildo Serafica and SRA board member Roland Beltran.
Despite resignations, execs involved in sugar import fiasco still liable — Zubiri
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.