May 5, 2022
Philippine News Agency | https://bit.ly/39c2MPR
BACOLOD CITY – The country's biggest sugar producers group with more than 30,000 member-planters has called out the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) for proceeding with the importation of refined sugar even with a pending case against such action.
In a statement on Thursday, United Sugar Producers Federation (UNIFED) president Manuel Lamata, who is based in Negros Occidental, said they will ask the courts to cite Agriculture Secretary William Dar and SRA Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica in contempt after giving the green light to implement Sugar Order (SO) No. 3.
“(We) will ask the courts to issue immediate warrants of arrest against the two officials for disrespecting the powers of the courts and bypassing the rights of sugar stakeholders that sought a status quo on SO 3,” he added.
SO 3 allows the importation of 200,000 metric tons of refined sugar for industrial users, mainly major food and beverage manufacturers, between March 1 and May 1, but the sugar producers called it “ill-timed” as it would happen at the peak of the milling season.
Last February, the regional trial courts (RTC) in Sagay City and Himamaylan City in Negros Occidental issued separate preliminary injunctions on the implementation of SO 3.
In his order, RTC Sagay City Branch 73 Executive Judge Reginald Fuentebella enjoined the SRA to cease and desist from implementing SO 3 and to maintain the status quo to be effective until the termination of this case unless earlier lifted.
However, UNIFED obtained a copy of Serafica’s Memorandum Circular 11 dated May 2, stating that SRA is now processing applications from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao traders, except Western Visayas, to import 200,000 metric tons of standard grade refined sugar and bottler’s grade refined sugar.
“This sheer defiance of the courts’ orders from Dar and Serafica in order to cater industrial users, particularly the beverages companies must be stopped, investigated and if warranted, be prosecuted,” Lamata said.
He added that UNIFED will “file corresponding charges to all traders who will participate in this importation program for making a mockery of the law.”
“The UNIFED is not against importation as it is a need, but is against the exclusivity to industrial users, which has never happened in the history of the sugar industry,” Lamata said.
In a previous statement, Dar said the decision to import some agricultural commodities such as sugar is backed by data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, adding that the Philippines is seen to have a supply deficiency for commodities such as sugar for the first and second quarters of 2022.