Hontiveros links hiked sugar prices to ‘cartel behavior’
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Risa Hontiveros has attributed the ongoing high sugar prices to “cartel behavior.”
Hontiveros said that the market price of sugar should have decreased after the government permitted the importation of 440 metric tons of sugar.
“So ibig sabihin, di yan ang totoong layunin or, merong ginagawa yung ibang mga players na minamanipula ang presyo. Ito ang cartel behavior. Common sense, kung mas maraming supply daw, dapat bababa ang presyo, e bakit di bumababa ang presyo di ba?” Hontiveros remarked.
(It means this is not the real intention or that some players are manipulating the prices. This is cartel behavior. It is common sense that with the abundant supply, prices should have gone down, but why is it not declining?)
Hontiveros also questioned the government’s decision to allow only three companies to import sugar. She pointed out that previous sugar orders issued by the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) allowed 10 to 30 sugar importers to participate.
“Nabawasan ang bilang ng mga importers. Sa mga nakaraang sugar orders, maraming importers ang isinama doon. May isang order 10, may isang order, 30. Nagulat po ang lahat. Bakit dito, tatlo lamang? At ano ang epekto ng ganitong klaseng practice? Pangalawang sugar fiasco na po ito,” she expressed.
(The number of importers has been reduced. In previous sugar orders, many importers were included. There was one order with 10 importers, and another order with 30. Everyone was surprised. Why are only three here? And what is the effect of this kind of practice? This is the second sugar fiasco.)
Furthermore, Hontiveros cited the Philippine Association of Supermarkets Inc., which reported that despite sufficient supply, the prices of essential commodities, including sugar, have remained unchanged over the past year.
“Lumabas sa hearing, kahit po sa mga supermarket, sinabi ng Philippine Association of Supermarkets Inc., noong nakaraang halos sa loob ng isang taon, hindi bumababa ang presyo ng mga pangunahing bilihin tulad ng asukal at sibuyas, samantalang sa obserbasyon nila, sapat naman ang supply,” she said.
(Earlier in the hearing, even in supermarkets, the Philippine Association of Supermarkets Inc. stated that over the past year, the prices of essential commodities such as sugar and onions did not decrease, despite their observation that there was sufficient supply.)
Hontiveros acknowledged that the high sugar prices and supply instability have adversely affected industrial sugar users’ operations, jeopardizing many workers’ jobs.
Meanwhile, Hontiveros suggested that industrial sugar users be allowed by the government to import sugar directly to sustain their operations temporarily while there is a perceived shortage in supply. She also emphasized the need for the government to support the development of the local sugar industry and local sugar producers in the medium and long term.