Bongbong Marcos mentioned 600,000 MT in import sugar meeting, says ex-SRA exec
MANILA, Philippines — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. had floated the idea of importing 600,000 metric tons (MT) of sugar into the country, resigned Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) chief Hermenegildo Serafica told senators on Tuesday.
At the resumption of the hearing of the Senate blue ribbon committee, Senator Risa Hontiveros asked Serafica about his supplemental affidavit where he narrated an online meeting supposedly attended by the President himself and Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez last August 4.
In that meeting, Serafica claimed that the President reiterated his instruction to import sugar so “it was recommended that 300,000 MT of sugar should be imported.”
When Hontiveros asked who made the recommendation, Serafica said this was based on the recommendations of stakeholders after the July 29 meeting of sugar farmers, millers, and refiners.
“Were there any objections to the recommendation to import 300,000 metric tons?” the senator asked again.
“I could not recall any objection at that point in that meeting,” Serafica replied.
The resigned official also reiterated his previous statement that there was an instruction to submit an import plan. In the language of SRA, he said, an import plan is an import program in the form of a draft sugar order.
Hontiveros continued with her questioning, this time asking Serafica if there were other issues discussed during the August 4 meeting with the President.
“Actually in that online meeting with the President, former board member Valderrama was also in that online meeting and the President mentioned about a volume of 600,000 metric tons,” Serafica said.
“And I said that Mr President, that may be too much because starting August 1, first farmers have already accepted cane delivery from farmers and anytime this week, they will start milling…” he added.
SRA board member Aurelio Valderrama, who was also present in the hearing, confirmed Serafica’s claim.
“Yes, this was discussed in our Zoom meeting together with the President and he mentioned the 600,000 but former administrator Serafica said that it might be too much because the milling season is about to open,” Valderrama said, still responding to Hontiveros’ queries.
The Senate blue ribbon committee has been conducting an inquiry into the controversial Sugar Order No. 4 that would have authorized the importation of 300,000 MT of sugar into the country. Malacañang, however, tagged the directive as illegal and without the President’s knowledge.
Rodriguez, who later showed up in the hearing Tuesday, belied Serafica’s allegations.
“Walang katotohanan na nanggaling kay Pangulong Marcos ‘yung 600,000 MT. Yung 300,000 MT nga ay hindi kumbinsido ang Pangulo, bakit niya sasabihing 600,000?” he said.
(There is no truth that the 600,000 MT figure emanated from the President. He was not even convinced with the 300,000 MT importation. Why would he say that 600,000 MT needed to be imported?)
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