SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
22 August 2022 05:54:15 PM
The House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability chaired by Rep. Florida “Rida” Robes (Lone District, San Jose Del Monte City) and the Committee on Agriculture and Food chaired by Rep. Wilfrido Mark Enverga (1st District, Quezon) on Monday held a joint motu proprio inquiry, in aid of legislation, into Sugar Order (SO) No. 4 allowing the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar. This was later on invalidated by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., concurrent Agriculture Secretary, as SO 4 was signed by SRA board members without his approval as the board chairman. During the interpellation period, former Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) administrator Hermenegildo Serafica explained that President Marcos Jr. has instructed him to craft an importation program that could address a projected sugar shortage by August 2022. A consultation with stakeholders was conducted thereafter, but the joint panel also found this to be illegal without the authorization by President Marcos Jr. Additionally, Serafica and former Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian bared that the proposed program submitted has not yet received any reply from the Palace. Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. (4th District, Cavite) refuted that the authority to convene the SRA board and sign such SO is solely granted to the Agriculture Secretary as SRA board chairman. Moreover, he said that the President conducted another consultation with stakeholders and found out that the country only needs to import 150,000 MT of sugar and the price could still be lowered. For his part, Rep. David “Jay-jay” Suarez (2nd District, Quezon) was dismayed to discover that the SRA deputy administrators were not even informed and consulted about SO 4, especially on its legality. Suarez and several other lawmakers were adamant that the SRA board should have just waited for President Marcos Jr.’s go signal. Robes assured that the joint committee would thoroughly investigate the matter to help ensure this does not happen again in the future for the sake of the Philippine sugar industry.