THE Department of Finance (DoF) said it is studying an auction scheme to replace the current system of sugar imports.

“The import system has several issues that need to be addressed. The first one is the transparency of the system itself… instead of deciding on the amount and the volume and who will receive the permits baka pwede auction na lang (maybe an auction is the better system),” Finance Assistant Secretary Antonio Joselito G. Lambino II told the House Committee on Agriculture and Food, which was discussing proposals to liberalize the sugar industry Tuesday.

He said the transparency issue can be addressed via auctions because the bidding process can be open, disclosing the bidders’ identities and offers, as well as the import volumes awarded.

“The decision on how much volume will come in is (currently) made by a few people (who) are trying to outsmart the market… but if we let the market help us decide through an auction system, baka mas magiging efficient (it might be more efficient),” he said.

Sugar imports must pay a 5% tariff under the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA.)

Mr. Lambino said auctions are one option that the DoF is considering, but others are geared towards achieving more transparency in import permits.

The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) said that it will conduct a study to evaluate Thai sugar prices and the competitiveness of leading sugar-producing regions like Negros Occidental.

During the committee hearing, House Resolutions 412 and 439 were also approved, seeking to investigate the impact of sugar import liberalization on the industry and economy. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang