MANILA — The Department of Agriculture (DA) on Tuesday defended the recent importation order for refined sugar approved by the President, saying it was meant to stabilize prices of sweeteners.
Agriculture Deputy Spokesperson Rex Estoperez said sugar prices have contributed 13 percent to the record-8 percent inflation in November, hence the need for the import directive.
"Kung titingnan natin mataas doon sa confectionaries at saka iyong sa sugar. So, iyong response doon is to import by accessing their minimum access volume," said Estoperez during a public briefing.
"Iyong sinasabi naman natin na MAV (Minimum Access Volume) na lumabas na iyon na 64,050 metric tons is a response pero hindi basta-bastang dumating iyan dito without considering iyong sinabi ko nga kanina," he added.
His statement came following the comment of former agriculture chief Leonardo Montemayor. The latter alleged that the impact of the decision was not fully discussed to President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., who is currently handling the agriculture portfolio.
Montemayor was quoted in an interview with a broadsheet, saying "forces" supposedly at work for fast-tracking the sugar imports would "dismay" local producers.
But Estoperez clarified that the minimum access volume's tariffs are different from regular sugar imports, admitting that this may not immediately stabilize the price of the commodity.
What the DA wants is for local millers to help bring down prices of sugar by "bringing their products in urban centers."
"Ngayon, may sinasabi ang ating mga millers, ang ating planters na marami pa doon sa areas nila at magpi-peak iyong kanilang milling season this coming January. Ang sinasabi nga namin tumulong na lang para dalhin dito sa urban centers na mataas ang presyo ang asukal para nang sa ganoon ay tumulong sila para ibaba iyong ating presyo," said the official.
"Kasi kung turuan lang tayo nang turuan mukhang mahirap yata iyon while iyong ating mga consumers, nagsasakripisyo ng mataas na presyo ng asukal."
Marcos earlier said he was looking into the direct importation of sugar through industry players to lower its prices.
Malacañang had described sugar importation as a "balancing act" that puts premium the welfare of consumers without killing the local industry.