Press Release
February 28, 2023

Hontiveros: Blacklist three handpicked firms involved in "gov't-sponsored" sugar smuggling if irregularities found

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday said that the three trading firms involved in the "government-sponsored" sugar smuggling scandal should be permanently blacklisted by the Department of Agriculture (DA) if they are found responsible for irregularities, as she renewed her call for a Senate probe of the latest sugar import fiasco.

The senator, who filed proposed Senate Resolution No. 497 seeking an investigation 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 relating to their roles in the reportedly illegal importation of hundreds of thousands of metric tons of sugar in the country.

"Madaming tanong na kailangang masagot, lalo na pagdating sa pananagutan nitong tatlong kompanya na nakaambang solohin ang importation ng sugar supply ng bansa. Kung sangkot sila sa kapabayaan o anomalya, dapat ay agarang silang ilagay sa blacklist ng DA at sampahan ng kasong kriminal o administratibo," Hontiveros said.

"I urge the three companies to cooperate with all investigations over this issue. They still have time to choose not to be fully embroiled in such a brazen and outrageous conspiracy. Kung naipit lang sila, then they should immediately reveal to the public the individuals who may be truly responsible for this 'Sugar Import Fiasco 2.0,'" she added.

"Likewise, I urge our fellow government officials in the relevant agencies to reveal efforts to pressure you or others to enable, protect or cover up illegal acts. Tandaan natin: 20 years ang prescription period for crimes like agricultural smuggling - plenty of time for the truth to come out. Baka sa huli, you will be left holding the bag, while they are laughing all the way to the bank," Hontiveros then said.

In a press conference last February 21, 2023, Hontiveros revealed documents showing that the three firms were given the go-signal to import 450,000 metric tons of sugar into the country, even without a Sugar Order from the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) as required by law. DA Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban later admitted that it was he who handpicked the three, and that his basis was only a memorandum from the Office of the Executive Secretary.

"Sino ba ang nagkakakamada na siguraduhing tatlong kompanya lang ang papayagang mag-angkat ng kailangang asukal ng buong bansa? Who is orchestrating this conspiracy-in-the works to commit large-scale agricultural smuggling and virtual economic sabotage?" the senator said.

Hontiveros also called on her colleagues in the Senate, as well as other government agencies, to swiftly act on the issue, citing the "need to prevent the economic damage a smuggling operation of such size would cause." She pointed out that a shipment of 260 20-foot containers of sugar - with inadequate permits- already arrived in the port of Batangas last February 9, 2023, reportedly consigned to All Asian Countertrade Inc.

"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 unjustly high. Kailangan nating agarang aksyunan ang isyu na ito upang mapapababa ang presyo ng asukal at ng iba pang pagkain na kailangan ng bawat pamilya," Hontiveros concluded.

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