Sebastian authorized to act on the import of sugar

MALACANANG “authorized” the resigning Undersecretary of Agriculture for Operations Leocadio Sebastian to “sign contracts, memorandums of understanding”, among other things, “necessary for the effective achievement of the objectives, plans and projects” of the Department of Agriculture (DA), which included the controversial decision to import sugar amid impending shortages.

The authorization is contained in a memorandum dated July 15, 2022 issued by Executive Secretary Victor Rodriguez, a copy of which was obtained by the Manila Times on Saturday.

The memorandum, whose legitimacy was confirmed by a palace source who was not authorized to speak to the media, surfaced a day after Sebastian resigned and took full responsibility for the “unauthorized” meeting with the Sugar Regulatory Board (SRB) and the subsequent issuance of Administrative Order 4 which required the import of 300,000 metric tonnes (MT) of sugar to stem a possible shortage.

Designated DA Undersecretary and Chief of Staff Leocadio Sebastian Source: https://ati.da.gov.ph/

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Press Secretary Rose Beatrice “Trixie” Cruz-Angeles said Saturday will spare no one in his administration’s investigation into the sugar import mess that “will go as far as necessary “.

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Marcos, who leads the board of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) as secretary of agriculture, wanted the investigation to proceed without his “interference”.

“Tutuloy po ‘yun. Iyan po talaga naman ang ating palakad. Hindi po natin ipapaubaya iyan. Hindi puwedeng pabayaan ‘yun (The investigation will continue. This is truly our path. We will not let this pass. overlooked) So it’ll go as far as it takes,” Cruz-Angeles said in an interview with state-owned Radyo Pilipinas.

“The President is objective. He lets the investigation proceed without his interference. Fair Kailangan (the investigation must be fair). Thus, he will take care of other matters habang ginagawa po niya (while the investigation is in progress). course),” she said. added.

Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs Richard Palpal-Latoc has been assigned to lead the investigation.

At a Friday night press conference, Cruz-Angeles announced Sebastian’s resignation, although it’s unclear if Marcos has accepted it.

‘Authorized’

Despite Malacanang’s assertion that the SRB meeting and resolution was “unauthorized”, the July 15, 2022 memorandum issued by Rodriguez “authorized ‘Sebastian’ as Undersecretary for Operations in the Ministry of Health. ‘Agriculture (DA)’ and granted it ‘additional powers and functions.’

Under the memorandum, Sebastian was authorized to “sign contracts, memoranda of understanding, administrative documents, instruments and administrative and financial documents necessary to carry out the objectives, functions, plans, programs and projects of the department, for the effective and efficient operation of the DA.”

He was also given the power to “serve ex officio as chairman or member of all duly constituted committees, boards, councils and bodies of which the DA Secretary is a member, or to appoint other officers of the AD for the same.”

In addition to this, Sebastian was authorized by Rodriguez to act “as the designated head of the procuring entity and to reconstitute the tenders and awards committee”, as well as to “appoint, reassign and/or designate the officials and employees of the department, except those whose appointments are vested by the president.”

The memorandum was “effective immediately, until a replacement is appointed or until otherwise determined” by the office of the executive secretary.

All of Sebastian’s actions “shall be considered valid unless later disapproved or disapproved by the President,” the order added.

When asked to comment on the memo, Cruz-Angeles claimed that Rodriguez designated Sebastian as one of the agriculture officers who can sign any document on behalf of the executive secretary and president.

She said there was a “misunderstanding” about Rodriguez’s order for the creation of an “import plan.”

“The import plan gives us information. Hindi iyan order (It is not an order)… It is a misunderstanding of the plan. After the plan, this is the only time when na magkakaroon po ng ( when you’re allowed to issue a) resolution. Kaya naging mahalaga ‘yung (that’s why it’s important to know) whether or not there’s an import plan,” Cruz-Angeles said.

“Until makita mo ‘yung (you see the) import plan, there is no import order. At kailangan pag-aralan (You must study first). Ito ‘yung sinasabi natin na ang Presidente (That’s what we say the President), he wants to do things systematically,” she added.

Cruz-Angeles insisted that Marcos only authorized Rodriguez to order the development of an import plan and noted that it was the executive secretary who informed Marcos of the unauthorized publication of the resolution.

“He had nothing to do with it. Wala pong kinalaman si ES his resolution to import from the Sugar Regulatory Board. Regulatory Board. He did not order the meeting to be called)” Cruz-Angeles said during of the Facebook Live video Friday night.

Block the import of sugar

Meanwhile, Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (Pcafi) Chairman Danilo Fausto called on the president to block the import of sugar and backed a call to inspect warehouses for a possible hoarding.

In a radio interview on Saturday, Fausto said the planned import was timed when local sugar growers started harvesting.

“In every agricultural product you should not import during the harvest season. The president was right not to allow 300,000 metric tons of sugar in. The milling season has started. You will kill the local industry At least 700,000 farmers are employed in the sugar industry. This does not include the 5-6 million indirect employees,” Fausto said.

Fausto said it was only in May 2022 that the SRA authorized the import of 200,000 metric tonnes of sugar.

“At least 86-90% of sugar imports have already arrived and that is enough because the harvest started early. Local sourcing will now be increased,” he added.

He said the combined daily operation of the sugar mills is 8,000 tons per day.

Rachel J. Bradford