Business groups back Duterte’s move to allow more sugar, rice imports
The country’s most influential business groups jointly welcomed the issuance of Administrative Order No. 13 (AO 13), which seeks to curb the rising prices of food.
In a statement Wednesday, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), Philippine Exporters Confederation (Philexport), and Philippine Food Processors and Exporters Confederation expressed optimism that the AO 13 will help tame the increasing prices of agricultural products.
Under the AO 13, President Rodrigo Duterte directed the National Food Authority (NFA) and the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA), in coordination with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), to remove non-tariff barriers in importing agricultural products, such as rice and sugar, which stoked food inflation in these past months.
He also ordered the agencies to ease the procedures for the inbound shipment of these agricultural products.
The business groups said they have submitted a letter to the SRA before the order was released by Malacañang Palace last week. However, they did not receive any feedback from the agency, the business groups said.
In their third letter to the SRA dated Sept.26, the business groups have also requested the agency to allow domestic food processors to import 100,000 metric tons of sugar.
Local food processors already raised their concerns on the “prohibitive cost of refined sugar in the domestic market,“ making them less competitive compared to other food processors in Southeast Asia who purchase sugar at P26 to P28 per kilogram.
The groups said there are 4,000 to 5,000 domestic food processors in the country that are using sugar as ingredient in manufacturing their products. These processors cater to 50 million to 60 million consumers.
“While we agree that our farmers need some assistance, we can no longer justify cuddling an industry at the expense of the greater majority of Philippine consumers and food manufacturing sector that are bearing the brunt of the high cost of this protection. This situation has likewise become a breeding ground for smuggling,” the organizations said.
Philexport president Sergio Ortiz-Luis, Jr. called on the government to allow the hassle-free importation of ethanol, a necessary additive to gasoline products derived from sugarcane. He said the current regulatory environment under the SRA forces oil firms to use locally-produced ethanol, which is costlier. “The price of gasoline will go down by PHP3 per liter if they (government) allow the importation of ethanol,” he added. (PNA)