Bongbong Marcos: SRA revamp up; ‘let’s import’ sugar if needed
MANILA, Philippines — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said on Wednesday he would reorganize the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) following the fiasco caused by the unauthorized approval of an order to import 300,000 metric tons (MT) of sugar.
Speaking to reporters at an event for the government’s vaccination program in Manila, the president said the reorganization would happen this week.
“We’ll reorganize the SRA and then we will come to an arrangement with the industrial consumers, with the planters, the millers, suppliers of the sugar to coordinate what’s available and what can be released to the market,” he said.
If there is really a shortage of sugar supply, Marcos said: “Let’s import. We will be really forced.”
In a meeting with members of the Philippine Chamber of Food Manufacturers Inc. on Monday night in Malacañang, the president already raised the possibility of allowing local food manufacturers to directly import sugar, but subject to the approval of the SRA, as part of emergency measures to address the prevailing supply shortage.
Soft drink makers, in particular, had earlier complained of an insufficient supply of refined sugar.
The president said he would also let the House of Representatives and the Senate do their own investigations into the sugar import mess.
Press Secretary Trixie Cruz Angeles earlier said Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs Richard Palpal-Latoc was conducting the Palace investigation on the illegal approval of the sugar importation order.
In a message to reporters on Wednesday, Angeles said the probe would continue despite the investigations in Congress.
Angeles earlier said Sugar Order (SO) No. 4, which would have allowed the importation of 300,000 MT of sugar, was illegal and assured the public that “heads will roll” if there would be sufficient evidence against the officials involved.
Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian, who signed the sugar import order without the approval of Marcos, already tendered his resignation last week.
Marcos had also accepted the resignations of SRA Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica and board member Roland Beltran, both signatories of the importation order.
However, the remaining member of the SRA board who signed the sugar order defended their action and decided to stay in office until otherwise removed by the President.
Aurelio Gerardo Valderrama Jr., planters’ representative on the SRA board, said he was willing to take part in the investigation of the aborted importation, adding he had documents to prove that before SO 4 was issued, almost all sugar federations agreed that the country needed 300,000 MT to address the sugar crisis.
These planters and millers’ groups, he claimed, also issued statements that they concur with the need to import sugar.
“SO 4 is based on facts and proper consultations. The proposed sugar importation was based on SRA’s official data and supply/demand analysis, as well as prevailing high market prices, which established a clear basis for additional imports. This is supported by resolutions from industry stakeholders themselves, including those who now demand our resignation,” Valderrama said.
“The earlier (the investigation starts), the better,” he added.
In a news conference in Bacolod City on Tuesday, Valderrama said he was leaving his fate to the President as he maintained that the sugar crisis faced by the country was real.
“I will wait for the instructions of the President. I believe that I did not do anything wrong,” he said.