Says Rodriguez merely called for draft plan, not for actual importation
Malacañang on Saturday defended Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez after his verbal directive to create a sugar importation plan appeared to have been misunderstood, resulting in the “illegal” order without the approval of the President for the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar.
“Importation plan gives us information. That was not an order to import,” Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said.
The importation plan, she said, is different from the Sugar Resolution No. 4 signed by then Agriculture Secretary Leocadio Sebastian, who has since resigned from his post.
“If you see the importation plan, there was no order to import. You have to study first. This is what we are saying that the President…wants to do things systematically,” Cruz-Angeles said.
Sebastian on Friday night tendered his resignation as he took the responsibility for signing Sugar Order No. 4.
Cruz-Angeles said there was a “misunderstanding” of Rodriguez’s verbal order for the creation of an importation plan.
“That’s a misunderstanding of the plan. After the plan, that is the only time there can be a resolution,” she said.
The unauthorized signing of the order on behalf of the President is still under investigation, Cruz-Angeles said.
“The President is objective. He’s leaving the investigation to be conducted without his interference. The investigation has to be fair,” she said.
Sugar planters’ groups have lauded Marcos’ move to disapprove the proposed importation.
On Friday, the Asociacion de Agricultores de La Carlota y Pontevedra Inc. and the La Carlota Mill District Multi-Purpose Cooperative said it is ill advised to import additional sugar as the milling season is about to start and will augment the current supply.
The United Sugar Producers Federation, the largest sugar federation in the country, also hoped that there would be a reorganization of the DA and the Sugar Regulatory Administration following the incident.
“The early harvest and resumption of milling will improve our supply,” DA Undersecretary Kristine Evangelista said.
Trixie Cruz-Angeles earlier maintained that importation is a “sensitive” matter, especially when it comes to agricultural commodities.
She said the Marcos administration is committed to fulfilling a “balancing act” between meeting the consumers’ needs, while not compromising the welfare of local farmers.
“Sugar is one such importation which we take great care with. It is a balancing act. The importation has to be carefully studied to protect both the consumer against the rising prices of basic commodities while ensuring at the same time that we do not destroy the local industry,” she said.