Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez underscored Tuesday that food security is a priority of the Marcos administration.
At the Senate inquiry on government efforts to address high sugar costs, Rodriguez stressed that President Bongbong Marcos Jr. wanted to ensure that food would be available to all.
“There is nothing more important than food security and its availability to the most ordinary Filipino,” he told lawmakers.
Rodriguez also said the Marcos administration is working for food price stability to “achieve our goal that no Filipino would get hungry, because if neglected, it might cause social unrest.”
The country’s annual inflation rate rose to 6.4 percent in July 2022 from 6.1 percent in June — the highest since October 2018 — which experts attributed to supply chain disruptions and the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
The Marcos administration has launched various efforts to cushion its impact on ordinary Filipinos, including negotiations with retailers to cut sugar prices.
Rodriguez held series of talks with owners of the biggest supermarkets like SM Supermarket, Robinsons Supermarket, and Puregold Supermarket, which agreed to sell refined sugar for PHP70 per kilo instead of PHP110.
The Marcos administration also conducted a series of operations to catch sugar hoarders who wanted to rake-in huge profits from artificial shortage and sudden spike in sugar prices.
At the Senate inquiry, Rodriguez also narrated the meetings that transpired before the issuance of the controversial Sugar Order No. 4 (SO 4), which resigned Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian had approved without the knowledge of President Marcos, who concurrently serves as Agriculture chief.
The Palace official said Marcos had instructed him to ensure that the SO 4 approved by Sebastian on Aug. 10 would have “no force and effect.”
“I confronted Usec. Leo Sebastian and asked him why he did such a thing behind the President’s back — without the President’s knowledge and in an unfair and dishonorable way,” Rodriguez said, recalling the events before lawmakers.
He said he had also asked Sebastian and then-Sugar Regulatory Administration administrator Hermenegildo Serafica to explain what happened.
Before the SO 4 approval, concerned officials were asked on Aug. 4 to justify sugar importation and present an importation plan to Malacañang, Rodriguez said.
Sebastian, on Aug. 5, submitted to Rodriguez’s office a memorandum recommending the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar.
Rodriguez said he “purposely” did not respond to Sebastian’s queries between Aug. 6 to 10 because “these are the matters that are still on the table of the acting secretary of the Department of Agriculture that he has yet to act upon and decide on.” (PNA)