Hontiveros: DA clearing release of imported sugar sans permit proves gov't hand in smuggling  | Inquirer News

Hontiveros: DA clearing release of imported sugar sans permit proves gov’t hand in smuggling 

By: - Reporter / @BPinlacINQ
/ 06:54 PM March 01, 2023

Senator Risa Hontiveros underscores a memorandum issued by the DA, which green lights the release of sugar that was imported without the proper permit

FILE PHOTO: Deputy Minority Leader and Senator Risa Hontiveros during plenary session on February 28, 2023. (Bibo Nueva España/Senate PRIB)

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Risa Hontiveros underscored on Wednesday that a memorandum issued by the Department of Agriculture (DA), which green lights the release of sugar imported without the proper permit, proves that government officials played a hand in the latest sugar importation mess.

The minority lawmaker cited a memo issued by DA Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban on Monday, February 27, which cleared the release of imported sugar from three international traders: All Asian Countertrade Inc., Edison Lee Marketing Corporation, and S&D Sucden Philippines Inc.


“The DA memo itself shows the truth that high-ranking officials are behind the cartel that’s being formed and the smuggling of sugar supplies in the country. We should not ignore this ‘smoking gun’ proof of government-sponsored sugar smuggling being coordinated at the highest levels of bureaucracy,” Hontiveros said partly in Filipino.


She also pointed to a part in the memo that explicitly stated that the 240,000 metric tons of sugar from All Asian Countertrade Inc. “have arrived in the country.”

Hontiveros said this shipment refers to the containers of sugar that reportedly arrived at the Port of Batangas on February 9, or six days before the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) issued Sugar Order No. 6.

READ: 440,000 MT sugar imports to arrive in April

“That’s the smoking gun. They were the ones who admitted in black and white that they were aware that shipments of sugar arrived in the country way before March 1, 2023, which is the earliest date the validly imported supply under Sugar Order No. 6 could reach our ports,” she pointed out.

For Hontiveros, the DA was not just aware of the shipment, but “they even wanted to clear them for release despite those shipments being obviously smuggled.”

INQUIRER.net has reached out to the DA to confirm the memo’s issuance, but they have yet to respond as of this posting.


‘Large-scale agricultural smuggling’

Hontiveros further noted that SO No. 6 could not justify the shipments that arrived before February 15, when the order took effect.

“Since they had no proper permits, those shipments should be considered the subject of large-scale agricultural smuggling,” she said.

Panganiban had earlier admitted that he mistook a memo from the Office of the Executive Secretary as “an approval to proceed with the importation.”

READ: Usec Panganiban admits to rushing through sugar imports

“It’s infuriating that the government is openly pushing for the creation of a cartel and the smuggling of sugar,” Hontiveros said.

She then cited the first sugar import controversy in 2022 when DA Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian signed an SO supposedly on behalf of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, placing him and several ex-officials of the SRA under tough scrutiny.

READ: Ex-SRA execs admit errors in sugar import order

“Now, cases and prison time should be meted to these corrupt officials who are abusing their posts for the sugar import fiasco 2.0,” Hontiveros pressed.

Through Senate Resolution No. 497, the senator called on the upper chamber’s blue ribbon committee to probe into the entry of imported sugar ahead of the issuance of SO No. 6.

READ: Senate blue ribbon to investigate sugar imports again

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This would be the second investigation of the panel on sugar importation under the administration of Marcos, who concurrently sits as DA chief and SRA chairman.

TAGS: Department of Agriculture, Smuggling, sugar

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