SRA gets go-ahead to clear release of sugar imports
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Agriculture (DA) has paved the way for the release of the imported refined sugar flagged by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) for arriving last Feb. 9 without the required permit.
In a memorandum to Administrator David Alba of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) dated Feb. 27, Agriculture Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban said the sugar agency could now issue clearances for the release of imports to three international traders.
Panganiban explained that since allocations under Sugar Order No. 6, Series of 2022-2023, has been awarded, and given the memorandum from the Office of the Executive Secretary and himself dated Jan. 13, “you may now issue the clearance/s for the release of imported sugar” to All Asian Countertrade Inc., (240,000 metric tons or MT); Edison Lee Marketing Corp. (100,000 MT), and S&D Sucden Philippines Inc. (100,000 MT).
“Included in the aforesaid imported sugar are the shipments consigned to All Asian Countertrade Inc. which have arrived in the country, the said shipments being part of the 240,000 MT awarded to All Asian” in relation to the memorandum and Sugar Order No. 6, Panganiban added.
A copy of Panganiban’s memorandum was sent to Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations (Confed) president Aurelio Valderrama Jr. on Tuesday.
Earlier, three planters federations urged the SRA to seize the refined sugar that arrived at the Port of Batangas on Feb. 9 without an import order.
In a joint statement on Monday, Confed, the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters (NFSP), and the Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers (Panayfed) enjoined the SRA to hasten its action against the illegal importation of sugar from Thailand.
“If left uncorrected, it will encourage further abuse of discretion and the granting of undue advantage to favored individuals or businesses, and it will render as inutile the SRA, the very agency tasked with regulating the movement of sugar within the country as mandated by law,” they added.
“It is incumbent upon SRA to file a criminal case for large-scale agricultural smuggling against the importers and confiscate or forfeit the illegally imported refined sugar in accordance with applicable provisions of the Tariff Code, or intervene in seizure proceedings with the [BOC],” they pointed out.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who exposed last week the alleged smuggling, on Tuesday called on the DA to ban the three trading companies implicated in the controversy if they would be found liable for the alleged attempt to corner the importation of 440,000 MT of sugar.
“There are many questions that need to be answered, particularly on the issue of liabilities of these companies to take control of the sugar supply in the country,” Hontiveros said.
“If they are involved in anomalies, they should be immediately blacklisted by the DA and be charged criminally or administratively,” she added.
Hontiveros also appealed to officials of the three companies to spill the beans on the purported attempt to use the sugar order as a legal cover for the supposed unlawful importation.
“I urge the three companies to cooperate with all investigations over this issue. They still have time to choose not to be fully embroiled in such a brazen and outrageous conspiracy,” the senator said.
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