Philippines leader threatens to fire officials in sugar mess

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MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine president has threatened to fire top agricultural officials if an investigation finds they wrongly announced a decision to import sugar amid shortages without his approval, his aide said Thursday. Press.

It’s the most severe punitive action newly-elected President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. could take against officials for apparent impropriety early in his six-year term. He took office on June 30 after a landslide election victory and inherited daunting problems.

Press secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said a resolution authorizing the import of 300,000 metric tons of sugar by the Sugar Regulatory Council, which Marcos Jr. heads, was posted on the company’s website Wednesday. ‘Sugar Regulatory Administration under the Ministry of Agriculture.

Marcos Jr. has temporarily taken over as agriculture minister due to a looming food crisis and soaring commodity prices triggered in part by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Cruz-Angeles said the president never approved or was aware of the resolution to import sugar, which was signed by an undersecretary of agriculture and other officials. The document was removed from the website on Thursday.

“This resolution is illegal,” she told a news conference. “An investigation is underway to determine whether acts that could cause the President to lose faith in his officials can be found or whether there is malice or negligence.”

“If such discoveries are made, then the only decision that will remain will be how many heads will roll,” she said.

Authorities faced with sugar shortages and rapidly rising prices, largely caused by the devastation of cane fields, mills and refineries by a powerful typhoon in December, chose to guarantee sugar imports more to alleviate the crisis.

But Marcos Jr. rejected the proposal, saying it needed to be studied to protect consumers from rising prices while ensuring “we don’t destroy local industry,” Cruz-Angeles said.

Marcos Jr. also inherited a pandemic-stricken economy, lingering coronavirus threats, deep poverty, decades-long Muslim and communist insurgencies, public order issues and political divisions. inflamed by the recent elections.

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