Salceda wants harsh punishment for sugar hoarders, profiteers – Manila Bulletin
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Joey Salceda wants to see farm cartels, hoarding and profiteering as economic sabotage.
“I want to give the government the legal basis to attack hoarders and cartels, and punish them with the full weight of the law. I especially think that there is something bitter going on in the sugar sector,” the Albay lawmaker said Sunday, August 14.
Thus, the solon of the 2nd district of Albay pledged to table an internal bill (HB) requiring that the aforementioned acts be punished with life imprisonment and heavy fines.
It would amend Republic Act (RA) 10845 or the Anti-Smuggling of Agriculture Act of 2016 by adding to the former the illegal acts of price manipulation defined by RA 7581 or “the Price Act”.
The Pricing Act defines “hoarding” as the undue accumulation of any commodity beyond normal inventory or the unreasonable limitation or refusal to alienate, sell, or distribute inventory of any basic necessity. “Profit” is the sale of an essential good at prices “grossly above its true value”. Meanwhile, “cartel” is the agreement between parties engaged in the production, distribution, sale and storage of goods to “artificially and unreasonably raise prices”.
In the bill, the acts sanctioned are those of cartel, hoarding and exploitation of “sugar, corn, pork, poultry, garlic, onion, carrot, fish and cruciferous vegetables, raw or having undergone the simple process of preparation or preservation for market, with a minimum amount of P1,000,000.00, or rice, with a minimum amount of P10,000 000.00P.”
He also suggested that President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. form an “agricultural hoarding task force” to begin looting the warehouses of sugar hoarders, citing a similar mandate from the Duterte administration for rice production. in 2018.
In addition, Salceda suspects “abuses” in the local sugar industry.
“The factories only transferred 14,000 tonnes [metric tons] of raw sugar to refineries from September 2021 to present, compared to 86,000 MT over the same period a year ago,” he began.
“Another number doesn’t make sense to me. While demand for raw sugar was down, demand for refined sugar was actually up, suspiciously due to faster withdrawals of import stocks (134,000 MT out of only 83,000 MT of import stocks over the same period, with demand for graded sugar for domestic use stable at around 840,000 MT),” Salceda added.
“I suspect abuse in the sugar market. Planters say the harvest hasn’t shrunk as much as the market suggests. Production was only down 16%, but prices were up 90% year-on-year. If something looks, smells and feels nasty, it probably is,” he concluded.
Salceda has previously described agricultural smuggling as the “greatest sin of Philippine society” and called on the Justice Department to prosecute offenders harshly.
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