Another sugar exec resigns

PRECIOUS A vendor stacks sugar in his stall at a public market in Manila on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. PHOTO BY JOHN RYAN BALDEMOR

ANOTHER official who signed the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) board resolution allowing the importation of 300,000 metric tons (MT) of sugar has resigned.

SRA Board Member Roland Beltran handed his resignation to Executive Secretary Victor Rodriguez on Sunday.

Beltran signed Sugar Order (SO) 4 as the representative of sugar millers on the board.

He cited his health as the main reason for his decision to quit the board.

Beltran said he first signified his intention to resign last July 1 but was informed on July 29 that he had been retained in a holdover capacity.

Sebastian returned to the board on August 1.

Last week, Department of Agriculture (DA) Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian resigned over his involvement in the failed sugar importation.

Sebastian signed the SRA order on behalf of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

The other signatories were SRA Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica as board vice chairman and Aurelio Gerardo Valderrama Jr., acting board member and the planters' representative.

Beltran welcomed Malacañang's move to investigate the SRA board resolution, saying it will clear his name.

Two congressmen on Monday called for the resignation of the other people who signed SO 4.

ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro and Negros Occidental Fourth District Rep. Juliet Marie de Leon Ferrer made the call during a briefing on the aborted sugar importation jointly held by the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability and the House Committee on Agriculture and Food.

Castro and Ferrer said the signatories of the order should resign “out of delicadeza.”

In a video posted on his official Facebook account, the President said the country's present sugar stocks must be used up first before he decides if there is a need to import the commodity.

He said the volume of imports “will not be as much” as the 300,000 MT stipulated in SO 4.

“Maaaring pagdating ng Oktubre, baka 'yung supply na nandito sa Pilipinas paubos na. Baka kailangan na nating mag-import pero kakaunti lang (Maybe by October our supply would be nearly gone. We may need to import, but lesser),” he said.

The President said 150,000 MT “is already a lot” for the remainder of the year.

Malacañang stressed that the President, who is concurrent head of the Agriculture department, did not convene the SRA board to discuss the importation nor did he sign SO 4 that would have given it clearance.

Inventory

An agricultural group on Monday said the government should conduct an inventory of sugar stocks in warehouses to determine if there is a shortfall.

Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag) President Rosendo So said local producers delivered at least 134,000 MT of sugar from January to June this year.

“This means the volume is three times this year. I am sure we have many stocks. What should be investigated is the spike in the retail price and the stocks in the market,” So said.

He suggested that DA and SRA officials consult with the producers, traders and retailers before deciding on an importation.

“The stocks of sugar are being kept in the warehouses that's why we are surprised on the high retail price of sugar,” So said.

So said he believes that traders are trying to control the release of sugar stocks.

“Within two months, the increase is almost P30 from P70 to P100. Based on their presentation, the retail price of refined sugar should be at P80 per kilo,” he said.

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