Legislator calls for standards to guide agri import decisions

REPRESENTATIVE Marcelino C. Libanan of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Programs (4Ps) party-list called for clear rules for determining when to import agricultural products like sugar.

“How do we determine the lack of sugar,” Mr. Libanan, also House minority leader, said during a news conference called by the Minority Bloc press conference.

He said import decisions have been a recurring issue, threatening the livelihoods of domestic farmers.

“We need experts that can tell us when to import, instead of waiting for a crisis,” Mr. Libanan said. “But the parameters needs to be clear to the people.”

He said imports must not be resorted to the point of disadvantaging farmers.

Mr. Libanan has filed a resolution in support of the ongoing hearings into the issuance of Sugar Order No. 4 in the name of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. in his capacity as Agriculture Secretary.

The Palace later called the order, which cleared the import of 300,000 metric tons of sugar, unauthorized, leading to the resignation of three officials connected to the order.

Separately, Batangas Rep. Ralph G. Recto said in a statement that a procedure needs to be devised to determine the appropriate volume of sugar to import, which will balance the interests of producers and consumers.

Mr. Recto said sugar demand and supply forecasts should be subject to outside review “and not by the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) and Department of Agriculture alone.”

He said that subjecting sugar data to third-party vetting will strengthen the integrity of the projections.

“What I am proposing is that a group of experts, from the academe perhaps, should take a second look at our food import projections, not just on sugar, but on all commodities, so that we will not be importing more than what is needed,” Mr. Recto said. — Matthew Carl L. Montecillo