Taking BBM for a ride

The element of deception revealed during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on Tuesday pointed to the conspiracy of the Sugar Regulatory Administration and powerful sugar traders to induce importation.

During the hearing, United Sugar Producers Federation president Manuel Lamata revealed that Sugar Order 4, which provided the basis for the importation of 300,000 metric tons of the commodity, was presented to the industry as necessary and had the imprimatur of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

Mr. Marcos, however, disapproved the SRA plan, but later on authorized half of the volume to be imported amid the shortage that industrial users have been complaining about.

Planters belied the claim of a shortage, which they said was a situation that the SRA and traders cooked up for quick money.

The head of the plantation owners, who are mostly based in Negros, said the association was made to believe that the President ordered the sugar importation when the SRA sought their backing that led to the drafting of SO 4.

“This is what the President wanted because it is an emergency and because the prices are too high,” Lamata quoted SRA officials as telling industry leaders.

“So, who am I to question the wisdom of the President?’” Lamata said.

Lamata told Daily Tribune that many found it strange that big-time sugar traders during the hearing appeared to be defending resigned SRA administrator Hermenegildo Serafica amid the revelations in the Senate of huge stocks of the commodity found in warehouses during raids conducted by the government.

The use of the Chief Executive to arm-twist producers to go along with the importation bid is particularly despicable.

“When we wrote and agreed with (the importation of) 300,000 metric tons of refined sugar, lo and behold, the SO 4 came out for the purchase abroad of 150,000 MT raw or brown and 150,000 MT refined sugar,” Lamata said.

“We signed because who are we to question the wisdom of the President,” he said.

Lamata said the local group disagreed with the import equation because it will come in October or November right during the milling season.

Only the mills which have refineries that can process brown sugar benefit from the importation, because they will collect refining charges.

It was the producers’ group’s agreement that Serafica used as an excuse for drafting SO 4.

Producers said importation is absolutely avoidable, since they are expecting a good harvest if the weather holds up, and there is enough sugar in the warehouses, including the about 10,000 MT allocation for the US quota scheme that can be converted for domestic use.

The former SRA head claimed before the Senate panel that at least five sugar federations were consulted and agreed to the recommendation to import sugar.

Senate President Migz Zubiri then questioned the “secrecy” that followed the haste in issuing the importation order.

Serafica admitted during the proceeding of crafting the order on his own without the knowledge of deputy administrator Guillermo Tejida.

His excuse was that what he crafted was an importation plan, which he did not want “to let anybody know until such time it will reach the Office of the President.”

Clearly, all that happened was a botched attempt to pull a fast one on President Marcos.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *