Solon eyes separate import authorization for beverage industry

In the light of the ongoing controversy over the botched sugar importation, San Jose del Monte City Representative Florida Robes disclosed that she is seeking to have separate importation orders for the beverage industry so as not to affect the price of sugar in the local market, which has ballooned to more the P100 per kilo.

Robes – who also chairs of the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability which is conducting a briefing on the sugar importation mess together with the Committee on Agriculture and Food — made the proposal considering that imported refined sugar for the beverage industry accounts to more than 50 percent of the country’s consumption.

“Since the beverage industry is consuming more sugar, it is also contributing to the consolidated demand for the country, hence the high cost of sugar in the retail market. Under the proposed scheme, the SRA will be mandated to issue separate importation orders for the beverage industry and for local consumers so that these will not affect inflation,” Robes said.

“We have to ensure that the country has enough supply of sugar in the market but this must protect sugar planters, millers and consumers as well to prevent any price spikes in the market. We also have to ensure that the measure should prevent smuggling in the process,” she added.

The lawmaker also said that in effect, Congress can a craft law allowing for sugar import re-classification, or, if the current law creating the Sugar Regulatory Administration allows it to re-classify sugar importation so as not to affect retail price.

“Then we have to choose the latter option,” said Robes.

She also labelled the spike in the retail price of sugar as “artificial” but “unconscionable” that’s why “we in the joint committees want to know why it has increased that much.”

The Monday Briefing can be immediately moved to proper investigation should members opt to have a proper motu proprio inquiry to ensure that resource persons are compelled to attend under pain of possible contempt, sworn in under oath and are bound by the duly published rules on inquiries, she added.

The original plan to hold a briefing this Thursday was rescheduled to Monday, Aug 22, to give way to the 7-day publication requirement for the rules (Good Government) to be considered effective. The 7th day will fall on 22 August.

Robes said the joint committees have invited SRA Administrator Herminigildo Serafica and Board Member Roland Beltran, as well as DA Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian, the three resigned officials who signed the “illegal” SO4 to the Monday Briefing.
Rep. Robes said the joint House probe on sugar importation on Monday is without prejudice to the recent resignations of these officials.

According to Robes, former DA Secretary William Dar will also be summoned to shed light on the botched sugar importation.

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