(File photo)

MANILA – The government is "seriously" looking into the proposal to allow food manufacturers to directly import sugar, Malacañang said Friday.

In an online press briefing, Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said there is no final decision yet on the planned direct sugar importation by big food and beverage firms.

"I-a-announce po namin kapag final na po ito (We will announce if it is already final). It is a proposal and seriously being considered," Cruz-Angeles said.

On Tuesday, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the government is eyeing the direct importation of local good manufacturers as part of "emergency measures" to address the sugar supply shortage.

The plan needs the approval of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA), currently headed by Marcos.

Cruz-Angeles said the inspection of warehouses will continue to determine if hoarders are creating an "artificial" shortage of sugar.

"Tuluy-tuloy kasi 'yung operasyon natin dito sa pag-inspect sa mga warehouse (The inspection of warehouses continues), so we can get to the bottom of what appears to be an artificial shortage. Whether or not it is artificial will depend on the evidence produced by these warehouse operations,” she said.

Executive Secretary Victor Rodriguez earlier bared that his office is investigating reports that certain sugar traders are "aggressively" pushing for the importation of 300,000 metric tons (MT) of sugar to use it as a "cover" to release their hoarded sugar.

Rodriguez, upon the directive of Marcos, also ordered law enforcement authorities to visit and inspect all Customs-bonded warehouses to check on the inventory of imported agricultural products.

The surprise visits to warehouses in Pampanga and Bulacan provinces will serve as a warning to sugar hoarders, Rodriguez said.

The floor area of the warehouse in the City of San Jose del Monte in Bulacan was found on Wednesday to be storing 42,733 sacks of sugar, roughly equivalent to 2,150 metric tons worth PHP215 million, as per Bureau of Customs (BOC) estimate.

The BOC is likewise investigating reports that a Pampanga warehouse had long been smuggling sugar from Thailand, repacking them for selling as “local sugar.”

Cruz-Angeles said simultaneous operations are currently being carried out in Deparo, Caloocan City; Tondo and San Nicolas in Manila; Rosales, Pangasinan; San Fernando, Pampanga; Ibaan, Batangas; and Davao.

"Nagpapatunay ito, sabi ni Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez, na seryoso ang pangangampanya natin para malinis ang sindikato ng hoarding at illegal importation ng asukal (Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez said this proves our serious campaign against syndicates involved in hoarding and illegal importation of sugar)," she said.

Marcos earlier rejected the SRA proposal to import 300,000 MT of sugar.

However, he announced in his weekly vlog released on Sunday that the administration plans to import 150,000 MT if needed in case of a shortage.

The DA is already drafting a proposal to import 150,000 MT of sugar, seen to raise the supply of sugar used in food manufacturing. (PNA)