Marcos bares SRA overhaul, sugar inventory, and import plans

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 17) — President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on Wednesday said there will be a top-level reshuffle at the Sugar Regulatory Administration(SRA) now at the center of a controversy after issuing a supposed illegal order to import the commodity.

Three signatories of the controversial Sugar Order No. 4 have resigned, including Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian who served as Marcos' representative in the board. Malacañang said the President rejected the SRA's order to import 300,000 metric tons of refined and raw sugar, done without his approval.

The President has many plans in store to address the issue. Once the SRA overhaul is completed this week, he said he wants to conduct an inventory of the supply of sugar in the country with the help of stakeholders like companies, planters, millers, and suppliers.

Prior to the inventory, Marcos said the country will still need to import sweeteners.

"Kung ano 'yung available, mailabas na sa merkado. And 'yung kulang, eh kunin na natin. Mag-import na tayo. Mapipilitan talaga tayo,” he told reporters. ”Unfortunately, it's the same situation in all the agricultural commodities in the Philippines. Kailangan natin. Ayaw na ayaw natin mag-import hangga't maaari. Ngunit ang problema, hindi sapat 'yung production natin,"

[Translation: Whatever is available should be released. If it's not enough, we have no choice but to import. Unfortunately, it's the same situation in all the agricultural commodities in the Philippines. As much as possible we don't want to do it, but our production isn't enough.]

RELATED: Marcos eyes sugar importation by October if supply dwindles

Senate President Migz Zubiri confirmed the government's plan to bring in 150,000 MT of imported sugar later this year after a consultation between Marcos and a delegation of farmers, millers, sugar workers, refiners on Wednesday.

He said they acknowledged the need to import a smaller amount for the industrial and household consumers while finding the "sweet spot" between producers and consumers.

“The shortage is about 150,000 metric tons to tide over industrial users and domestic household users by October. By then, full swing na ang sugar milling (By then, the sugar milling will be in full swing),” said Zubiri in a phone interview with reporters.

They said if the SRA's plan to import 300,000 MT of sugar pushed through, it would have affected hundreds of thousands of local farmers and farm workers all over the country.

Moreover, Zubiri said that they are suggesting that private companies should directly import to avoid corruption.

Marcos defers to Congress

The President said his office is no longer investigating the SRA and the release of Sugar Order No. 4 to focus on the shortage of refined sugar experienced by several soft drink makers in the country. He said the shortage is pushing companies to shorten the work week since they don't have the necessary supplies.

Instead, he is letting the Senate and House of Representatives conduct their own investigation into the importation mess.

"Dahil ang iniintindi ko lang talaga is that hindi tayo tumagal na mayroon tayong shortage ng sugar, lalong-lalo na para sa mga industrial consumer. 'Yung mga gumagawa ng soda, ng mga drinks, pati na 'yung mga sa pagkain, all of the outlets na ganoon. Ayaw natin maipit 'yun," he said.

[Translation: I am focusing on making sure the sugar shortage doesn't last long especially for our industrial consumers or those making soda, drinks, and food. We don't want to encounter problems there.]

Data from the Department of Agriculture showed the retail price of refined sugar has soared to ₱100/kilo, ₱75/kilo for washed sugar, and ₱70 for brown sugar in Metro Manila.

Marcos said the government is negotiating with traders to lower the retail price of sugar down to ₱70.