MANILA — According to Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, the sugar importation carried out earlier this year under Sugar Order (SO) 6 is deemed “legitimate and fully authorized by the government.”
Speaking at the Senate blue ribbon committee inquiry on alleged government-sponsored sugar smuggling, Bersamin emphasized that the importation of 440,000 metric tons of sugar in February was not an attempt at cartelization but rather a government effort to combat inflation in the months leading up to January 2023.
Bersamin highlighted that the objective of maintaining buffer stock to regulate price increases was a measure put in place by the Marcos administration. President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. issued the directive to import sugar during a meeting with Department of Agriculture (DA) officials to address inflation and the high prices of sugar.
To implement the President’s directive, Bersamin issued a memorandum on January 13 instructing the DA to carry out its recommendations regarding the second sugar importation program for the crop year 2022-2023.
Michael Escaler, the CEO of All Asian Countertrade, one of the importers involved in the investigation, stated that his company is the largest buyer of sugar from Filipino farmers. Escaler explained that they import sugar only to bridge the gap that the domestic industry cannot meet, allowing them to maintain the viability of local sugar production, which is crucial for the country’s food security.
Bersamin clarified that the importation was not solely dependent on the Sugar Order and that there are other legal avenues for importing sugar, including the Minimum Access Volume program, provisions of the Price Act, and a direct order from the President.
He stated that Sugar Order 6 was subsequently issued by the Sugar Regulatory Authority (SRA) to ensure proper documentation for the importation and facilitate the processing and release of the shipments by the Bureau of Customs and other relevant agencies. (ai/mtvn)