Press Release
August 30, 2022

Transcript of Interpellation Senator Risa Hontiveros with Philippine Sugar Millers Association Inc.
Blue Ribbon Committee hearing
30 August 2022

SRH: May I ask questions on Mr Pablo Lobregat, President of the Philippine Sugar Millers Association Incorporated (PSMA). Una po kay Mr Lobregat. Sir mayroon po bang sugar hoarding ngayon?

Lobregat: I cannot say none, maybe there might be some

SRH: But in the magnitude that is surrounding this sugar fiasco.

Lobregat: In my statement during the COngressional hearing, I made a statement that said hoarding and smuggling are symptoms of supply deficit. They are not cause.

SRH: Speaking of supply deficit, artificial ba ang sugar shortage?

Lobregat: I do not believe that it is artificial.

SRH: So you believe that the sugar shortage is a reality?

Lobregat: I believe so.

SRH: There are allegations going around that no consultations had been undertaken with the stakeholders. Kayo po ba kinonsulta po ba kayo ng SRA? If so, ano po ba yung recommendations ng stakeholders? Kung may rekomendasyon, ano yung basehan ng mga stakeholders?

Lobregat: Madam I just want to clarify, are you referring to Sugar Order No. 4?

SRH: Yes, I',m referring to SO4.

Lobregat: I remember that all stakeholders were consulted before the issuance of that order. I do not remember exactly or we do not know because what the other consulted party said but I remember the PSNA did recommend 300,000 and I think I heard earlier that most stakeholders that were consulted more or less gave the same figure but not too far from there.

SRH: Dito sa recommendation ng PSMA na 300,000 MT nasabi nyo na more or less the other stakeholders made the same or similar or a little less recommendation. Ano yung basehan ninyong mga stakeholders para sa rekomendasyong iyon ng 300,000 or a little less.

Lobregat: Usually we rely on data that is coming from SRA. There is a production bulletin, we also consult our members for example, throughout the year, at the beginning of the year, in the middle of the year, for example we ask our planters how is their PS LKGTC which is the number of 50 kilobags that you can get in a hectare and last year I remember because of the rains, there had been, there was a little improvement from the previous year but not very much. Especially during Typhone Odette and after Typhoon Odette, the rainfall at least in Bukidnon and even Negros was unabated, it was very wet. These are things that go into our recommendation and we could see, you can actually foresee early on if you are really going to get a good crop or a better crop or a bad crop and we are hoping that the weather would dry up towards the end and we did not see any improvement.

SRH: Malaking factor din talaga dito sa sugar fiasco na ito yung panahon yung weather.

Lobregat: Definitely. In my presentation in Congress I said that was the main culprit. You cannot blame the industry for the weather, we don't create it.

SRH: Yung PSMA ay isa sa mga nagrekomenda ng 300,000 MT ano ngayon ang ingin ng PSMA doon sa reduction ng sugar imports mula sa 300,000 MT or yung panukala sa ilalim ng SO4 to 150,000 MT o yung kasalukuyang proposal. Would these 150,000 MT ibababa ba niya ang retail price ng asukal sa 70 pesos per kilo and even if so sa ilang araw o ilang linggo o even ilang buwan pa ibababa sa 70 per kilo?

Lobregat: I do not have the official. I cannot give you and official PSMA statement because we have not met on that. This is very recent in fact we need to give recommendations on the 150. Personally, I think the whole process has been delayed. Can I expound a little bit?

Sugar Order No 3 was crafted early on in January after Odette because we saw prices starting to rise especially refined. One of the cause of the prices dropping sorry going up was the delay caused by the TRO issued in Negros as that refined to suppose to come in March only came in practically, May. The other thing that happened was, the elections c aused paralysis in most government agencies until the new administration came online. This is what I said in Congress. These delays added up and now they are still crafting the Sugar Order No. 2 I think for this year and this has all caused prices to remain high.

SRH: And yung 150,000 MT. proposed sa ngayon, ibababa ba niyan ang presyo ng asukal sa 70 pesos per kilo? How long would it take if at all it'll bring it down to that price level?

Lobregat: When it was being proposed during that meeting I attended in Malacanan. What was being pushed was 150 and I said anything is better than nothing.

SRH: Better than nothing? Is it good enough para makuha yung isang gusto natin makuhang mas mura ang asukal para sa mga tao at para sa food and beverage manufacturers?

Lobregat: Personally, I don't think so.

SRH: Kanina Sir binanggit nyo you rely on data coming out of SRA, actually itatanong ko rin yung kay Atty Tejida pero lastly kay Mr Lobregat, who do you think is feeding the President with misleading information?

Lobregat: Not the President. As I mentioned in my statement yesterday in CNN, I said Malacanan is being misled. This was with reference to the raids that have been going on after my first statement in Congress, I don't know why the people's certain sectors felt that I was going against their opinions and two days after there was an article came out i nManila Times, that said, this was Mr. Lamata talking, they should also be raiding the mills in Bukidnon because the raids in Luzon are just the tip of the iceberg and one week later while we were attending the Philsutech, Bukidnon was raided and they showed these pictures of 446,000 bags of sugar which seems to many enormous amount of sugar. But what I can say is number one, this is all sugar produced in Bukidnon. Last year, Bukidnon in our mills, we produced close to 3 million tons, we produced close to 3 million bags and 440,000 bags represents only 15% of our production so if you ask us, were we hoarding? Well, we're down to the last 15% and we will only start milling in November. This will only last us about 45 days.

SRH: The dire prediction seemed to be dovetailing with each other coming from other sources about the supply running out. Actually nabanggit ni Mr Lobregat yung raids I will also be asking Atty Tejida who is feeding Malacanan, who is misleading Malacanan in regards to the raids. Maraming salamat, Mr. Lobregat.

Could I please ask now my last questiosns to Atty Tejida?

Atty Tejida,sino po yung nag-uutos ng mga BOC raids or inspections sa mga bodega

Atty. Tejida: Maayong hapon. The sugar regulatory administration is not privy to the inspections of the Bureau of Customs until after the raid has been conducted.

SRH: Nabanggit nga rin ni acting Commissioner Ruiz na nagcocoordinate sila sa SRA dito sa mga inspection or raid na ito. Sige, kung pagkatapos nilang pumasok or mag-inspect or mag-raid at magcocoordinate sa inyo hindi ba nila sinabi kung sino ang nag-utos nung raid or inspectioon na yun?

Atty. Tejida: They do not categorically state who ordered but from the point of view of SRA like that one in Subic, the inspection was conducted maybe after some time afternoon until evening and a personnel of Bureau of Customs actually came to the office on a holiday to seek a verification whether this shipment was cleared by the SRA. What really transpired was that I was shocked myself to hear the news, my signature appeared on that certain clearance from the SRA which was claimed to have been fake.

SRH: So sa inyo pala yung pirma na finake hindi yung isang intriga na lumabas ng maaga sa sugar fiasco na to na finake daw ang pirma ni Presidente, kayo talagang finake ang pirma nyo sa isang papel?

Atty. Tejida: As far as the news came out, the clearance was that of my signature, precisely that I readily cleared that it was shipment well under Sugar Order No. 3.

SRH: So tanungin ko sa inyo Atty Tejida yung isang, ibahin ko ng konti yung tanong ko kay Mr. Lobregat, sino sa tingin nyo sa Malacanan tungkol sa mga raids or inspections?

Atty. Tejida: I cannot categorically state but this could have been prevented if the SRA was alerted ahead of time of these clearances because as I can notice, based on the 25 August 2022 letter of the BOC addressed to the acting administrator now Mr. Alba most of those raided or inspected either belonged to participants with SO3 or are also registered international traders but these are all subject to verification, because SRA, we do not conclude there's no hoarding here, there's no smuggling here provided that our records would be consulted in this regard.

SRH: Subject to verification din yung mga niraid at ininspect ay covered naman pala ng mas maagang sugar order at hindi dapat sanang naging subject ng raid or inspection. I totally agree a lot of this fiasco could have been prevented by better handling at different levels.

Atty, gusto kong i-establish kung yung sugar shortage ay tunay or peke sa pamamagitan ng data validation. Yung veracity ng data ng SRA sabi kanina ni Mr. Lobregat, pinagbabasehan din ng mga stakeholders sa kanilang mga rekomendasyon. Tunay ba yung mga datos ninyo sa SRA? Maaasahan ba yan?

Atty. Tejida: Of course. These data are the ones we used by the stakeholders during the stakeholders conference. These data are products of what we call a sugar monitoring system. We come up weekly or approximately at least weekly of the supply and demand situation of the country and this production bulletin are cross-checked with the [inaud] system of the mills. We have the so-called SMS, sugar monitoring system and we also monitor the coastwise movement of sugar to the shipping permits and there are, these sugars from the mills before release are covered by what we call sugar release orders. These are validated by our regulation officers who are there in the mills daily.

SRH: Kahit kami sa Kongreso, we presume regularity. Just a quick segue from Atty Tejida, yung ibang stakeholders, kanina tinanong ko kay Mr. Lobregat kung kinunsulta sila, is Sir Raymond Montinola of ConFed here [not present]? Pwede ko bang itanong din sa kanila if they are consulted. Kung tama po ako. Kung hindi to my last question

Mr. Roland Dela Cruz National Congress of Unions in the Sugar Industry [present]

SRH: Just to my last question to Mr Dela Cruz then, kayo po ba ay kinonsulta po ba kayo, kayo po ba ay kinukumbinse or nilinlang ba kayo para maniwala na gusto ni Presidente itong importation kung kaya't nagkaroon ng rekomendasyon ng 300,000 MT of importation

Dela Cruz: Your Honor, for the record, we were not involved. We were not part of the consultation process despite the fact that we represent the workers in the sugar industry as well as I fit as a member of the stakeholders consultative assembly but for the purposes of Sugar Order No. 4, we were not a part of the consultation process.

SRH: Salamat Mr. Dela Cruz, napakaimportante noon Mr Chair. I would like to reiterate the point of Sen Tulfo na stakeholder ang sugar workers, employees, yung mga union at dapat sa mga ganitong ka-importanteng issue ay kinokonsulta sila regularly para hindi maulit ang ganitong uri ng fiasco.

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