Planters call for seizure of Batangas sugar shipment

SUGAR planters said the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) must seize the 5,000 metric tons of refined sugar landed in 260 containers at the port of Batangas on Feb. 9, which had arrived prior to the issuance of a formal sugar order.

In a joint statement on Monday, Aurelio J. Valderrama, Jr. of the Confederation of Sugar Producers Association, Enrique D. Rojas of the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters, and Danilo A. Abelita of the Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers said that the SRA needs to act with haste against the Batangas shipment, which they consider “an illegal importation of sugar.”

“This case of smuggled sugar represents a clear threat to the Philippine sugar industry, because it opens the door for sugar imports, in violation of established procedures and guidelines under existing laws, rules, regulations and regulatory issuances,” the planters groups said.

Agriculture Undersecretary Domingo F. Panganiban has said that he interpreted a memorandum from the Office of the Executive Secretary to mean that immediate sugar imports have been authorized, and that he had acted in response to the urgency of the supply situation.

Sugar imports typically must be covered by a sugar order issued by the SRA. Sugar Order No. 6 took effect on Feb. 18, authorizing imports of 440,000 metric tons of the commodity, part of which will serve as a buffer stock to dampen volatility in sugar retail prices.

“If left uncorrected, (the unauthorized imports) will encourage further abuse of discretion and the granting of undue advantage to favored individuals or businesses,” the planters added.

The planters urged the SRA to exercise its mandate and file criminal charges over the Batangas imports, alleging violations under Republic Act 10845 or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016.

They also called for the confiscation of the refined sugar in collaboration with the Bureau of Customs. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera