Lifestyle checks for sugar execs urged

The four officials who signed the illegal sugar import order should “be subjected to lifestyle checks,” the former chairman of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission on Tuesday recommended.
“I definitely would suggest a lifestyle check of those involved. Of course, the Bureau of Customs and Department of Agriculture should get involved in the investigation to broaden our knowledge of the transaction,” former PACC head Greco Belgica said in an interview with Daily Tribune’s Gising Na!

The former Palace official was referring to the four members of the Sugar Regulatory Administration Board who signed Sugar Order No. 4, allowing the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar, which Malacañang later disowned.

The SRA’s SO No. 4 was signed by Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian; Board vice chairperson Hermenegildo Serafica; Board Member — Miller’s Representative Rolando Beltran; and Acting Board Member — Planter’s Representative Aurelio Gerardo Valderrama Jr.

Unauthorized resolution

All but Valderrama Jr. have already resigned their posts after the investigation into the unauthorized resolution was launched.

Valderrama disclosed he has already written a letter to the President, explaining the events that led to the signing of the resolution.

In the letter, he expressed that he is ready to step down from his post if the President already lost his trust and confidence in him.

Malacañang has yet to announce whether or not the President already replied to his letter.

Belgica stressed that it is high time that the existing import permit system be investigated as the system is also being applied in the importations of rice and onions.

“Beneficiaries of these import permits should be investigated too to find out if they have any relation to the officials,” he said.

“It’s good that this has been publicized because it is the President who found out about it. The investigation should therefore be open to everybody and it should be transparent,” he added.

Belgica is optimistic that through Congress, the investigation into the system of the issuance of import permits will be transparent.

“Hopefully, the investigation will lead to a better system and, you know, the guilty will be punished. Most especially, the system must be changed to keep abusive and corrupt officials out,” he said.

He hailed the Marcos administration, saying that while it is “focused on economic recovery,” it “does not neglect its fight against corruption.”

Marcos on Wednesday revealed that he has ordered an overhaul of the embattled Sugar Regulatory Administration amid the investigation into the unauthorized sugar import resolution.

This is the first time that the Chief Executive addressed the fracas involving the SRA Board.

“So what we are going to do is that we are going to reorganize the SRA and as soon as that’s done — that should be done this week, before the end of this week,” Marcos told reporters during the launch of PinasLakas vaccination campaign in SM City Manila.

Once the SRA reorganization is done this week, Marcos said he would order an inventory of the remaining supply of the sweetener locally.

“We’ll reorganize the SRA and then we will come to an arrangement with the industrial consumers, with the planters, the millers, suppliers of the sugar to coordinate para talaga kung ano ‘yung mayroon, kung ano ‘yung available, mailabas na sa merkado,” he revealed.

Marcos meets private sector

Meanwhile, Marcos on Monday met with the Philippine Chamber of Food Manufacturers Inc. to seek a concession with traders to bring down sugar prices in the country.

The chief executive met with PCFMI — the principal organization of manufacturers and distributors of food products in the Philippines — as he aims to partner with the private sector to bring local sugar prices to acceptable levels.

“Hopefully, we can get some concessions with the traders so that at least the pricing will be reasonable. The concern is the supply right now. I’ll make sure that there is sufficient supply in the country so that you can operate at full capacity,” Marcos said.

He is also eyeing direct importation by food manufacturers as part of emergency measures to address current industry concerns.

Marcos assured the public that government will exert efforts to increase the supply of the commodity amid the “worrisome” sugar supply problem in the country.

“It has become a worrisome problem. We are doing all of these things to protect the jobs of workers in those industries. So, we are studying several measures that we can take to immediately increase the supply of sugar in the country,” he said.

Marcos earlier said he is eyeing importing up to 150,000 MT of sugar if the available supply runs out by October this year.

Furthermore, Marcos said his office is no longer investigating the SRA and SO No. 4 to concentrate on addressing the declining supply of refined sugar being experienced by top makers of the popular carbonated beverages.

He is leaving the probe up to the hands of the lawmakers in both the House of Representatives and Senate.

 

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