THREE planters' federations and a millers' association called for an investigation into the questionable sugar shipment that entered the country before the issuance of Sugar Order No. 6, allowing the importation of 440,000 metric tons of sugar.
They also urged the House of Representatives and the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to conduct a full-blown investigation into this and other blatant cases of sugar smuggling.
The National Federation of Sugarcane Planters (NFSP) headed by Enrique Rojas, the Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations (CONFED) headed by Aurelio Valderrama, Jr., the Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers (PANAYFED) headed by Danilo Abelita, and the Philippine Sugar Millers Association (PSMS) headed by Pablo Lobregat were alarmed by recent reports of alleged sugar smuggling.
The group narrated that, for the past two weeks, different sources have reported the arrival at the Batangas Port of 260 20-foot containers containing an estimated 5,000 metric tons or 100,000 bags of refined sugar from Thailand.
This shipment, worth around PhP400 million in the retail market, reportedly arrived on February 9, before the release on February 15 of Sugar Order No. 6 allowing the importation of 440,000 mt of sugar, the group pointed out.
That shipment has thus been publicly questioned as being unauthorized, and therefore considered smuggled.
In response, the Bureau of Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service has reportedly asked the District Collector of the Port of Batangas to justify the release of the sugar by submitting copies of import clearances issued to the importer by the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA).
"As affected stakeholders, we are deeply concerned. An open and transparent investigation must be quickly undertaken to establish the facts. If an order was issued to the Collector of the Port of Batangas to release the sugar, where is this order and who issued it?" the planters and millers inquired.
"If, on the other hand, the sugar in question is not supported by a legitimate import authorization and release order from the SRA, that sugar should be seized by Customs, pursuant to existing laws. The importer/s and official/s involved in the entry and subsequent release of this shipment should also be investigated, and if determined to be liable, they should be made to answer to the full extent of the law," they emphasized.
The group also condemned, in the strongest terms, any and all acts of sugar smuggling, which constitute economic sabotage that wreak havoc on the livelihood of thousands of sugarcane farmers, 90% of whom are ARBs and marginal farmers who rely solely on sugar for their sustenance.
"We urge the House of Representatives and the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to conduct a full-blown investigation into this and other blatant cases of sugar smuggling. The public deserves to know who are responsible, and what concrete actions will be taken by the concerned government agencies to stop this nefarious practice," they appealed to legislators in both houses of Congress.
"It is our position that the sugar import program must not only be carefully calibrated in terms of volume and timing, so as not to severely affect millgate prices, it should also be open to all qualified traders and producers’ groups through a process that is transparent, fair, and equitable," they stressed.
The NFSP, CONFED, PANAYFED and PSMA enjoined all sugar producer federations, unaffiliated associations and cooperatives, millers, labor groups, and all affected stakeholders to join us in fighting for the survival of the sugar industry by exposing and opposing any blatant attempt at sugar smuggling. (PR)