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DA issues clearance for release of flagged imported sugar

The Department of Agriculture (DA) has given its go signal for the release of the imported sugar that arrived in the country last February 9 and was flagged by Senator Risa Hontiveros as not covered by earlier sugar orders.

In a memorandum addressed to Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) Administrator David John Thaddeus Alba dated February 27, Agriculture Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban said the SRA may now issue clearance/s for the release of imported sugar to the three international sugar traders, namely All Asian Countertrade Inc., Edison Lee Marketing Corporation, and S&D SUCDEN Philippines Inc.

The go-ahead signal was issued by Panganiban “considering that allocations under Sugar Order No. 6, Series of 2022-2023 had been duly awarded, and considering further the Memorandum from the Office of the Executive Secretary dated January 13, 2023, and the Memorandum from the Office of the Senior Undersecretary of the Department Agriculture on even date…”

Last week, Panganiban said he proceeded with an immediate importation of sugar as he “acted with haste” due to the memorandum released by the Office of the Executive Secretary, which he considered a sugar order.

The DA senior official’s announcement came on the heels of Hontiveros’ call for an investigation into the the arrival of 260 20-foot containers of sugar from Thailand on February 9, which she said were not covered by earlier sugar orders.

Hontiveros said Panganiban — who represented President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. in the SRA Board — had a January 12 letter addressed to one of the alleged sugar importers of the questioned importation, saying the allocation was “per instruction of Executive Secretary [Lucas] Bersamin.”

Interpreting the memorandum issued by the Office of the Executive Secretary as an approval to proceed with the importation, Panganiban said he instructed “three capable and accredited companies to proceed with the importation of sugar provided that they agree to reduce the prices of sugar.”

A week prior to Panganiban’s announcement, the SRA released an order authorizing the importation of 440,000 metric tons (MT) of refined sugar under Sugar Order No. 6, which was transmitted to the Office of the President on February 9, 2023.

The 440,000 metric tons are broken down as follows:

  • 200,000 MT shall be allocated to consumers
  • 240,000 MT shall be allocated as buffer stock and shall only be released for consumers upon approval of the SRA Board

The order was signed by Panganiban, Alba, and SRA Board members Mitzi Mangwag and Pablo Luis Azcona. It was not signed by Marcos who sits as chairman of the SRA Board.

Hontiveros said that the latest shipments could not have been covered by Sugar Order 6, as the allocation for this would only start on February 24. It was also not covered by earlier orders, as the earliest arrival date would be on March 1.

In his memorandum to the SRA, Panganiban indicated that the three imported were given the following allocation:

  • 240,000 metric tons for All Asian Countertrade Inc.
  • 100,000 metric tons fro Edison Lee Marketing Corporation
  • 100,000 metric tons for S&D SUCDEN Philippine Inc.

“Included in the afore-said imported sugar are the shipment consigned to All Asian Countertrade Inc., which have arrived in the country, the said shipments being part of the 240,000 metric tons or 4,800,000 LKG bags awarded to All Asian Countertrade Inc. in relation to the above-mentioned Memorandum/Sugar Oder No. 6,” he said.

In an interview with reporters, Panganiban confirmed he issued the clearance order to the SRA for the release of imported sugar.

“It would be P80 per kilo to P85 [per kilo]. It will be released within the next two weeks,” he said, adding that “this is the sugar that will lower the price of commercial sugar in the Philippines.” —KBK, GMA Integrated News