‘Very productive’ 2-hour meeting between Zubiri, PBBM on sugar issue

Senate President Juan Miguel "Migz" Zubiri had ‘’a very productive’’ two-hour meeting Wednesday, Aug. 18 with President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. In Malacañang on the sugar supply and importation problems.

‘’I led a delegation of stakeholders from the farmers, millers, sugar workers and refiners to consult with the President on the issues of importation and productivity,’’ Zubiri said in a Viber message sent to Senate reporters Wednesday night.

The meeting followed the aborted illegal importation order of 300,000 metric tons (MTs) of sugar from the Sugar Regulatory Board (SRB).

This led to the resignations of some key officials of SRB and the Sugar Regulations Administration (SRA) even as an internal investigation by Malacañang on the sugar mess is ongoing.

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chaired by Senator Francis Tolentino will conduct on Monday, Aug. 22 a public hearing on the privilege speech of Zubiri on the sugar issue. The latter had earlier demanded the resignation of sugar officials.

Zubiri said the ‘’illegal’’ sugar importation order of SRB was issued although there are still some 127,000 MTs of sugar locked within warehouses in the National Capital Region (NCR) while the prices of sugar have risen amid claims of sugar supply shortage.

‘’First of all, we thanked the President for not allowing too much importation of sugar to the country that would have affected hundreds of thousands of local farmers and farm workers all over the country. We however acknowledged the need to import a smaller amount for the industrial and household consumers, as the consensus using available data on the remaining demand was to import at only 150,000 MTs,’’ he pointed out.

This is far from the planned 300,000 MTs initially signed off by the resigned SRB, he said.

‘’There were other initiatives recommended to the President to ease the increase of sugar prices but we will let the President make the announcement at the proper time,’’ he stressed.

‘’What is important is that all the stakeholders came together to propose concrete short term and long term solutions on the sugar situation. Looking for the 'sweet spot' between producers and consumers,’’ he added.

The delegation that went to Malacañang, according Zubiri, included the following: ‘’Vice Gov Jeffrey Ferrer of Negros Occ., Roberto Cuenca AALCPI, Board Member Joeben Alonso, Miguel Hinojales NSF, Cornelio "Arnel" Toreja LUZONFED, Pablo Luis Azcona KABILOG, David P. Alba AALCPI Esteban Coscolluela BBM Negros Spokesperson, Atty Edgardo Acuña Negros Del Norte PA Andy and Janet Gonzaga CHA, Pablo "Pablum" Lobregat PSMA ,Judge Enrique Barcelona, Florencio Alonso Jr LCMDMPC, Rene Cabati URC Sure William Chua VMC, Lance Gokongwei URC and Rica Alba.’’