3 sugar importers should be blacklisted, charged if found involved in anomaly — Hontiveros

By Alyssa Nicole O. Tan, Reporter 

THREE COMPANIES handpicked by the government in its premature importation of sugar shipped in 260 20-foot containers should be permanently blacklisted and brought to court if found involved in irregularities, a senator said on Tuesday. 

“There are many questions that need to be answered, especially when it comes to the responsibility of these three companies that are threatening to monopolize the importation of the country’s sugar supply,Senator Ana Theresia RisaN. Hontiveros-Baraquel said in Filipino in a statement. 

If they are involved in negligence or anomaly, they should be immediately put on the DA’s (Department of Agriculture) blacklist and face criminal or administrative charges,” she added.

The senator, who filed Senate Resolution 497 for a probe on the issue, said that All Asian Countertrade Inc., Sucden Philippines Inc., and Edison Lee Marketing Corp. should be scrutinized for any irregularity or criminal liability. 

All Asian and Edison Lee, in separate phone calls with BusinessWorld, said that they currently have no plans of issuing a statement. Meanwhile, Sucden dropped the call as soon as the issue was mentioned and can no longer be contacted. 

The arrival of the shipment in Batangas on Feb. 9 came on the strength of a memorandum issued by the Office of the Executive Secretary, Agriculture Senior Undersecretary Domingo F. Panganiban earlier said. 

However, it preceded the issuance of a formal sugar order by the industry regulator by several days. 

I urge the three companies to cooperate with all investigations over this issue,Ms. Hontiveros said. They still have time to choose not to be fully embroiled in such a brazen and outrageous conspiracy.  

If they were just caught in between, then they should immediately reveal to the public the individuals who may be truly responsible for this ‘Sugar Import Fiasco 2.0,’” she added.   

The senator also called on relevant government officials to disclose any information relating to the issue.  

Let’s remember: the prescription period for crimes like agricultural smuggling is 20 years plenty of time for the truth to come out,she said. Maybe in the end, you will be left holding the bag, while they are laughing all the way to the bank.  

Ms. Hontiveros said the importation of close to 450,000 metric tons of sugar could be considered large-scale agricultural smuggling.  

Under Republic Act 10845, large-scale smuggling of agricultural products is classified as economic sabotage and is a non-bailable charge.   

Large-scale is defined as shipments valued at P1 million for most farm items and P10 million for rice.   

“There is a reason why we have strict laws against smuggling of agricultural goods. They prevent greedy individuals from hoarding our food supply and keeping prices of agricultural goods unfairly high,she said.