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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

PBBM pressed to act on sugar smuggling

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SENATE Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros has prodded President Ferdinand R. Marcos to check rampant sugar smuggling reportedly allowed by ranking Department of Agriculture officials, calling the transaction “State-sponsored” smuggling.

The senator suggested the President can start looking into reports of sugar smuggling said to be given the green light by Agriculture Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban.

The opposition lawmaker asked the President: “How many smoking gun or proof does he need to  correct what is known as the injustice in the sugar industry?”

What finally triggered Hontiveros’s anger is the fact that the Bureau of Customs (BOC) allowed the 260 container vans of sugar to exit from the Port of Batangas in February instead of confiscating it.

The sugar should have been seized outright as it was clearly smuggled, Hontiveros said, adding that BOC lawyers should reread the law that requires a sugar order for all importations.

The sugar came from Thailand without a sugar order or an SRA permit, which the law clearly requires for legal importations, the senator stressed.

The importation was simply based on a memorandum from Panganiban allowing the three importers to import 450,000 metric tons and in the memorandum, the name of Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin was allegedly invoked. It remains unclear if the latter had indeed sanctioned the order.

The senator stressed that a simple memorandum cannot take the place of a sugar order that must come from the SRA.

Hontiveros recalled that she had exposed this way back February, and lamented that authorities should have stopped the release of the sugar supply from the ports and started prosecuting those involved in the smuggling.

She earlier revealed that the three favored importers will rake in at least P7 billion even as the prices of sugar in the market are not going down anyway, defeating the purpose of importation.

Image credits: Albert Calvelo/Senate PRIB

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