By Dolly Yasa
BACOLOD City – Three sugar planters groups here said the case of smuggled sugar represents a clear threat to the Philippine sugar industry.
In a joint statement, the National Federation of Sugar Producers, Confederation of Sugar Producers Association and PanayFED said “smuggled sugar opens the door for sugar imports, in violation of established procedures and guidelines under existing laws, rules, regulations and regulatory issuances.”
They called on the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) to initiate seizure proceedings on the estimated 5,000 metric tons of sugar flagged by the Bureau of Customs last month at the Batangas Port, prior to the issuance of the sugar order allowing such importation.
They also urged the agency to file charges against the importer/s for Large Scale Agricultural Smuggling.
They enjoined the SRA to hasten action against what they condemned as an illegal importation of sugar.
“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 as inutile the SRA, the very agency tasked with regulating the movement of sugar within the country as mandated by law,” they further said.
Earlier, Senator Risa Hontiveros, who called on the Senate to investigate what she calls “government-sponsored sugar smuggling,” pushed that the three firms involved in the importation be blacklisted if irregularities are proven.
Hontiveros claimed that it was “large-scale agricultural smuggling,” which she said is tantamount to economic sabotage.
The sugar groups echoed the sentiments of the senator referring to the shipment as “large-scale agricultural smuggling” tantamount to economic sabotage under Sec. 3(a) of Republic Act 10845 or the “Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016”.
The planters’ groups further 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).
“SRA should 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,” they said.
The group further said that “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.”