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Hontiveros seeks justification on issuance of latest sugar order

Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros is seeking justification on the latest issuance of an order allowing the importation of 440,000 metric tons of sugar in the country.

"The absence of the signature of the President on Sugar Order No. 6 is probably the least of my questions. Andami kong katanungan (There are a lot of questions that need answers). Una, where did they get the volume of 440,000MT when three major federations of sugar producers pushed for only 330,000MT?" she said.

Apart from this, Hontiveros asked why the Department of Agriculture was given the discretion of final approval of volumes to be allocated to importers when in previous sugar orders, they were pro-rated based on mechanical computation.

"Pwede bang sabihin ng DA na sa tatlong trader lang, at etsapwera na ang iba kahit sila ay nag-apply at eligible importers naman? Hindi ba ito favoritism at virtual monopoly?" she asked.

(Can the DA say that only three traders can import and others cannot eventhough they applied and are also eligible importers? Isn't that favoritism and virtual monopoly?)

Further, the lawmaker floated the possibility of technical smuggling as she mentioned some sugar stocks which were supposedly imported in the country prior to the issuance of a sugar order.

"Lastly, matanong ko lang, can a Sugar Order be retroactive and legitimize the entry of imported sugar that arrived before the SO’s issuance? Because if we follow the law, imported sugar not covered by a sugar order is technically smuggled. Sino ang nag smuggle? Sino ang nagbasbas?" she said.

GMA News Online has reached out to DA spokesperson Rex Estoperez but he has yet to respond as of posting time.

On Wednesday, the Sugar Regulatory Administration released an order authorizing the importation of 440,000 MT of refined sugar even without the signature of President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., who sits as chairman of the SRA Board in his capacity as secretary of Agriculture.

The SO No. 6, uploaded on the SRA website, showed that the document was transmitted to the Office of the President on February 9, 2023.

The document was signed by the SRA Administrator David John Thaddeus Alba (vice-chairperson), SRA Board members Mitzi Mangwag (millers’ representative), and Pablo Luiz Azcona (planters’ representative).

Also signatory in the latest order was Agriculture Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban.

In an interview on Tuesday, Azcona said the President was represented on the SRA Board by Panganiban.

“For upcoming orders, we respectfully send it to the President so that he is very well informed. Before we release it, it is always nice to have his input,” he said.

“Go-signal siguro ‘yun because I don’t know if he will sign in personally eh,” he added.—AOL, GMA Integrated News