Hontiveros suggests blacklisting three firms linked to alleged 'state-sponsored' sugar smuggling

By GMA Integrated News

Senate deputy minority leader Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday suggested the permanent blacklisting of three trading companies linked to what she described as "government-sponsored" sugar smuggling if irregularities are found.

"Madaming tanong na kailangang masagot, lalo na pagdating sa pananagutan nitong tatlong kompanya na nakaambang solohin ang importation ng sugar supply ng bansa. Kung sangkot sila sa kapabayaan o anomalya, dapat ay agarang silang ilagay sa blacklist ng DA at sampahan ng kasong kriminal o administratibo," Hontiveros said.

(There are a lot of questions that must be answered, particularly the accountability of these three companies which are set to corner the importation of sugar in the country. If  they are involved in any negligence or anomaly, they should be immediately put on the Department of Agriculture's blacklist and they should face criminal and administrative cases.)

Hontiveros issued the statement as she pushed for a Senate investigation into the latest sugar importation controversy.

The lawmaker earlier filed Senate Resolution 497 to investigate the February 9 arrival of 260 20-foot containers of sugar from Thailand, which she said were not covered by sugar orders.

Hontiveros emphasized that the three companies should be scrutinized for any irregularity or criminal liability relating to their roles in the reportedly illegal importation of hundreds of thousands of metric tons of sugar into the country.

"I urge the three companies to cooperate with all investigations over this issue. They still have time to choose not to be fully embroiled in such a brazen and outrageous conspiracy. Kung naipit lang sila, then they should immediately reveal to the public the individuals who may be truly responsible for this ‘Sugar Import Fiasco 2.0,’" she said.


"Likewise, I urge our fellow government officials in the relevant agencies to reveal efforts to pressure you or others to enable, protect or cover up illegal acts."

In a press conference last week, Hontiveros presented documents showing that the three firms were given the go-signal to import 450,000 metric tons of sugar into the country, even without a sugar order from the Sugar Regulatory Administration.

After which, DA Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban said he proceeded with an immediate importation of sugar as he considered a memorandum released by the Office of the Executive Secretary a sugar order.

Hontiveros then called on her colleagues and other government agencies to act swiftly on the issue as there is a "need to prevent the economic damage a smuggling operation of such size would cause."

"Sino ba ang nagkakakamada na siguraduhing tatlong kompanya lang ang papayagang mag-angkat ng kailangang asukal ng buong bansa? Who is orchestrating this conspiracy-in-the works to commit large-scale agricultural smuggling and virtual economic sabotage?" the senator asked.

"There is a reason why we have strict laws against smuggling of agricultural goods. They prevent greedy individuals from hoarding our food supply and keeping prices of agricultural goods unjustly high. Kailangan nating agarang aksyunan ang isyu na ito upang mapapababa ang presyo ng asukal at ng iba pang pagkain na kailangan ng bawat pamilya," she added.

(We need to act on this issue immediately so we can lower the prices of sugar and other food products that every family needs.) —Hana Bordey/ VAL, GMA Integrated News