“Dapat may managot at maparusahan”
The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said the Senate and Congress must leave no stone unturned in the neverending sugar importation and sugar smuggling mess that could involve high officials of Malacanang and the Department of Agriculture.
KMP has expressed support to Senator Risa Hontiveros’ demand to probe the entry of some 260 shipping containers of sugar from Thailand consigned to All Asian Counter Trade Inc., ahead of the issuance of Sugar Order (SO) No. 6. The imported sugar, believed to be smuggled, entered the country through the port of Batangas. The shipment arrived on Feb. 9 or a week before the Feb. 15 SO No. 6. issued by the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA).
Despite the opposition of sugar workers, sugar planters and agri stakeholders, the SRA arbitrarily approved the importation of 440,000 metric tons (MT) of sugar. “Mapait ang katotohanan na may mga opisyal ng gobyerno na nagsasabwatan at posibleng kumikita sa mga transaksyon ng importasyon at o smuggling,” Mariano said.
“We believe that this is just the tip of the iceberg of the neverending sugar mess involving high government officials. Ganito rin ang nangyari kay dating Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez na nadawit sa hindi awtorisadong “sugar importation” kasama ng iba pang matataas na opisyal ng SRA,” according to KMP chairman emeritus Rafael Mariano.
“There is a very thin line between “legal importation and smuggling.” Kagaya rin sa bigas, iisa lang ang dinadaanan ang imported na asukal. At habang nasa barko ang mga shipment at naghihintay ng sanitary and phytosanitary certificates, ang mga “smuggled” na asukal ay pwedeng maging “imported. Madali nang ipalusot ito laluna kung magkasabwat ang DA at ang Bureau of Customs,” Mariano said.
Defending the irregular entry of sugar imports, Panganiban said he interpreted a memorandum from the office of Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin as an order to proceed with the importation. Panganiban admitted that he instructed three sugar-importing companies to go ahead with the importation.
The arrival of smuggled sugar and issuance of the sugar importation order happened while sugar plantation farmers and mill workers of the Central Azucarera Don Pedro Inc. (CADPI) in Batangas were protesting the permanent closure of CAPDI, a subsidiary of Roxas Holdings Inc. The closure could affect 10,980 hectares of sugarcane areas and could leave 4,584 sugarcane planters bankrupt.
SO No. 6 did not have the signature of acting Agriculture Secretary Bongbong Marcos Jr. The only signatories of the importation order were DA Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban, acting SRA administrator David John Alba, and SRA board members Mitzi Mangwag and Pablo Luis Azcona representing the millers and planters, respectively.
KMP said this latest sugar mess should not follow suit an earlier case wherein the Office of the President, through ES Bersamin, dismissed the cases filed against former DA undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian, former SRA Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica, former SRA board members Roland Beltran and Aurelio Gerardo Valderrama Jr. ###