• GILBERT P. BAYORAN
Three sugar planters’ federations yesterday called on the Sugar Regulatory Administration to initiate seizure proceedings on the estimated 5,000 metric tons of sugar flagged by the Bureau of Customs last month, at the Batangas Port, prior to the issuance of the sugar order allowing such importation, and to file charges against the importer/s for Large Scale Agricultural Smuggling.
The call was made by the Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations (CONFED), National Federation of Sugarcane Planters (NFSP), and the Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers (PANAYFED), as they enjoined the SRA to hasten action against what they condemn as an illegal importation of sugar.
In a joint statement, NSFP, CONFED and PanayFED, said “This case of smuggled sugar represents a clear threat to the Philippine sugar industry, because it opens the door for sugar imports, in violation of established procedures and guidelines under existing laws, rules, regulations and regulatory issuances.”
“If left uncorrected, it will encourage further abuse of discretion and the granting of undue advantage to favored individuals or businesses, and it will render as inutile the SRA, the very agency tasked with regulating the movement of sugar within the country as mandated by law,” the planters’ groups warned.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, who called on the Senate to investigate what she calls “government sponsored sugar smuggling,” wants the three firms involved in the importation to be blacklisted if irregularities proven.
Hontiveros, in her social media account, reiterated that it was “large scale agricultural smuggling,” which she said is tantamount to economic sabotage.
The sugar groups also said essentially the same thing as Hontiveros, referring the shipment as “large-scale agricultural smuggling” tantamount to economic sabotage under Sec. 3(a) of Republic Act 10845 or the “Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016”.
According to the planters’ groups, the said importation is not covered by allocations granted under either Sugar Order No. 3 or the new Sugar Order No. 6, it also violates Sugar Order No. 6, while its withdrawal or release violates the Sugarcane Industry Development Act (SIDA).
They also cautioned SRA to refrain from issuing SRA Classification on the said imported refined sugar, or, if already issued without authority from the Sugar Board, to withdraw or recall the same.
“SRA should provide for a rational and calibrated sugar import program and ensure the observance of a transparent, fair and equitable process of granting import allocations, as earlier proposed,” the planters’ groups reiterated.*