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Marcos urged to appoint new agriculture chief amid sugar mess

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
Marcos urged to appoint new agriculture chief amid sugar mess
President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. answers question directed to him by the members of the Palace media during a press briefing at the Heroes Hall in Malacañang, Tuesday, July 5, 2022.
PCOO / Robinson Niñal

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Thursday urged President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. to address the “deeply problematic” leadership of the Department of Agriculture by appointing a new chief amid the sugar importation mess which the opposition lawmaker said is just the “tip of the iceberg” of the issues hounding the agency.

Upon assuming the presidency, Marcos took the agriculture portfolio saying there is a need to arrest rapidly rising food prices.

But controversy hit the Sugar Regulatory Administration, an attached agency of the DA, with officials of the regulatory body allowing the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar supposedly without the president’s go signal.

While the importation order contained Marcos’ signature, Malacañang claimed that this was forged and that the president rejected the plan to import sugar.

“The president should reconsider his position and appoint a competent person who would take charge of the DA, end all controversies in the department, and focus on helping farmers and ensuring adequate food supply in the country,” Hontiveros said in a statement.

She said having Marcos perform the tasks of agriculture chief only leads to “confusion and dysfunctionality in the bureaucracy,” noting that the president is already heading numerous government agencies and the armed forces.

“As clearly shown by the situation in the DA, it is very difficult to do all of those responsibilities and at the same time focus on the myriad of programs that must be handled by the DA Secretary,” Hontiveros said.

Marcos said he is eyeing to reorganize the SRA following the botched sugar importation and is going to assess how much inventory is left and whether the government would need to import elsewhere.

Sugar Order No. 4 already laid out the problem, as the raw sugar inventory will stand at less than 35,231 metric tons by the end of August. 

Likewise, the controversial order indicated that half of the supposed 300,000 import quota will go to industrial users, while the rest will be divided between producers and traders. 

Since the start of the year, the price of sugar has been rising at a pace of 5%, according to National Economic and Development Authority Sec. Arsenio Balisacan. — with a report from Ramon Royandoyan

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

FERDINAND MARCOS JR.

RISA HONTIVEROS

SUGAR

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