THE DEPARTMENT of Agriculture (DA) is now studying following an auction system starting with sugar to ensure transparency in the country’s import system.

Following the advice of the Department of Finance (DoF) that an auction scheme is better than the current import system, Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said Friday he has ordered the department to study the alternative.

“Merong team na mag-aaral na nung existing system ng DoF… Actually next week mayroon nang follow-up meeting with DoF on this (There is a team studying the existing system of DoF already… Next week there will be a follow-up meeting with DoF on this),” he said in a briefing Friday.

To recall, Finance Assistant Secretary Antonio Joselito G. Lambino II, in a hearing at the House of Representatives earlier this week, said holding an auction may be a viable option for importing sugar, instead of the current practice where the DA has the prerogative to issue permits based on amount and volume decided in discussions with importers.

He noted the current method raises transparency issues, which would be addressed through auctions as this would bare details such as identities and offers of importers.

Mr. Dar said Friday that as for the DA, “It will come to the point na the auction system will be in place, may makolekta ang gobyerno, hindi makolekta sa bulsa ng iba o ilan-ilan lang (that the collections will go to the government, not to the pockets of a few).”

The auction system will first be implemented in sugar imports, and then will eventually be rolled out to rice, onions, garlic and other commodities.

“We are still designing the details… We will have to issue the guidelines,” Mr. Dar said. The department’s timetable is to finalize this within the year.

With an auction system in place, the Agriculture secretary said there will be proof of transparent transactions as the import clearance fee will be collected by the national government. He added he wants to discuss the possibility of dividing the collections from import clearance fees with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, the Bureau of Plant Industry and the Sugar Regulatory Administration. — DAV