THREE planter federations urged the Sugar Regulatory Administration to perform its mandate in initiating seizure proceedings on the 260 20-footer containers containing approximately 5,000 metric tons of refined sugar that arrived at the Batangas Port prior to the issuance of the sugar order allowing such importation.
The Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations (CONFED) headed by Aurelio Valderrama Jr., the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters (NFSP) headed by Enrique Rojas, and the Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers (PANAYFED) headed by Danilo Abelita, enjoined the SRA to hasten its action against what they condemned as an illegal importation of sugar.
In their joint press release on Monday, February 27, the three federations narrated that the sugar shipment was flagged by the Bureau of Customs in Batangas Port for lack of SRA-issued import allocation and, as such, the sugar must be monitored closely and dealt with in accordance with existing laws and applicable regulations.
"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," they pointed out.
"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 inutile the SRA, the very agency tasked with regulating the movement of sugar within the country as mandated by law," the planters' groups warned.
The shipment constitutes "large-scale agricultural smuggling" and is tantamount to economic sabotage under Sec. 3(a) of Republic Act 10845, or the "Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016," they stated.
According to the planters' groups, because 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).
"It is incumbent upon SRA to file a criminal case for large-scale agricultural smuggling against the importer(s) for violation of RA 10845, and confiscate or forfeit the illegally imported refined sugar, in accordance with applicable provisions of the Tariff and Customs Code, or intervene in seizure proceedings with the Bureau of Customs," they stated.
They 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.
They expressed hope that the Senate and the Lower House of Congress should conduct the appropriate investigation into this latest sugar importation issue, with the same zeal exhibited during the investigation of the aborted Sugar Order No. 4 last year.
"We, as your Federations, are motivated by no other motive than to seek ways to protect your interests as well as the integrity of the sugar regulatory system, which has served the industry well since 1986," they stated.
"We call on the support of all industry stakeholders, as we seek ways to address this and all the other challenges that we face. The fate of our sugar industry could well depend on the actions we take today. Let us close ranks and protect the welfare of our many dependents and the very future of our industry!" the planters' federations urged other industry stakeholders. (PR)