Hontiveros blasts gov’t plan to sell seized smuggled sugar at Kadiwa stores
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Risa Hontiveros is unhappy about the Sugar Regulatory Administration’s (SRA) plan to sell confiscated smuggled sugar at Kadiwa stores.
For the opposition legislator, it seemed inappropriate to profit from goods that were obtained through illegal means.
She suggested it would be better to give the confiscated sugar for free to Filipinos in need and victims of calamities through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
The SRA plans to sell at least 4,000 metric tons of smuggled sugar seized by authorities in Kadiwa stores for around P70 a kilo.
“Bakit pagkakakitaan pa ang galing sa iligal (Why do we need to make money out of something obtained illegally)?” she asked.
“Kaysa mabulok o ibenta para pagkakitaan pa, bakit hindi na lang ibigay ng libre sa mga kababayan nating nangangailangan at biktima ng kalamidad? Maraming nagugutom ngayon at kinakapos dahil sa mataas na presyo ng bilihin,” she said in a statement.
(Instead of leaving it to rot or selling it for profit, why don’t we just give it away for free to people in need and victims of calamities? Many people are starving and are short of money because of the high prices of commodities.)
Hontiveros also said it is “more favorable” to make available the seized sugar to beneficiaries of the DSWD.
The legislator further noted that her office estimates imported sugar from Thailand to only cost P65 a kilo – a few coins less than the planned selling price of the sweetener in Kadiwa stores.
“Hindi ba ang goal ay maging abot-kaya ang presyo para sa lahat ng Pilipino? Pero bakit mataas pa rin ang presyo kung ibebenta?” Hontiveros asked.
(Isn’t it the goal to make goods affordable for all Filipinos? But why is it being sold for a higher cost?)
Gov’t enabling smuggling?
Hontiveros had repeatedly questioned the SRA’s earlier decision to handpick only three major companies – Asian Countertrade Inc, Edison Lee Marketing Corporation, and Sucden Philippines – to buy a hefty sugar volume from abroad.
She alleged that high-ranking government officials have a hand in the supposed cartel involving sugar smuggling in the country.
Hontiveros likewise said Kadiwa stores should not rely on smuggled sugar to lower the prices of its products.
“Kailangang sugpuin ang pribadong kartel sa asukal na nagpapataas ng presyo, dahil na rin sa kagagawan ng gobyerno.” she pressed.
(What they need to do is crack down on private cartels of sugar that trigger the rise in prices, partly because of the government’s enabling.)
She then called for a broader pool of traders and industries in the country that could purchase imported sugar.
She added that the DA and SRA should also bolster ties with the local sugar industry to increase production yields.
“Hindi pagkunsinti sa smuggling ang sagot sa ating problema sa mataas na presyo ng asukal. Huwag tayong magpadala sa palusot ng mga nais manamantala sa problema sa hapag-kainan ng taumbayan,” she said.
(Enabling smuggling is not the solution to the problem of high sugar prices. Let’s not be swayed by the excuses of people trying to take advantage of the food security problems of the people.)
Next week, the Senate blue ribbon panel will begin its probe into the controversy surrounding Sugar Order No. 6 amid allegations that it was issued to justify the entry of a sugar shipment six days before the supposed importation order.
Hontiveros sought to have the SRA order investigated by the committee through Senate Resolution No. 497.