BBM did not oppose sugar plan — Sebastian

Resigned Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian said President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez did not oppose the program to import sugar.

Sebastian made the statement in response to Sen. Risa Hontiveros query during the second hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Tuesday.

“There were no objections to the importation program, Your Honor. I did not hear any objection or any reservation,” Sebastian said.

He said he received instructions to draft a sugar importation program following the 4 August meeting which he failed to attend.

The directive was relayed by resigned Sugar Authority Administration Hermenegildo Serafica.

“If you are instructed to draft the sugar importation program, your honor, that means they are already aware that there’s an importation that has been planned or even the number that is supposed to be imported, is already they’ve already been informed about it, your Honor,” he said.

Sebastian also revealed that he personally informed the president about the controversial Sugar Order No. 4, which was later described by the Palace as an “illegal resolution.”

“I informed the President that we have already approved the 300,000 metric tons sugar importation,” he said.

The embattled official said Marcos has yet to accept his resignation. He, however, is under preventive suspension for 90 days.

Serafica supported Sebastian’s claim that Marcos and Rodriguez supported the importation plan. “I did not hear any objection at that point, your honor,” he said.

Rodriguez was not able to attend the hearing because it coincided with the Cabinet meeting.

During the presidential briefing on 1 August, the resigned SRA head said he recommended to “prepare a draft order on another import program for SRA board approval.”

“In that instant, after everything was discussed, the President said to submit an importation plan,” he added.

Serafica said in his previous meeting with the President and other officials, nobody had opposed the importation plan — including sugar stakeholders who attended the meeting.

“Actually, almost all of them recommended 300,000 MT volume to be imported. When we presented the supply and demand, it was indicated in the slides, in the presentation of the regulations department during that time, and they saw the deficit, the estimated deficit, towards the end of August,” he said.

“Likewise — this concerns about the raw sugar, and likewise on the refined sugar — the SRA has complete data on the facts of our average demand for the last three crop years as far as raw sugar is concerned and as far as refined sugar is concerned. They realized upon seeing all of these, they recommended — almost the same — the 300,000 MT,” he added.

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