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SRA’s sugar import directive is the subject of a 20-day TRO issued by a regional court.

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – A 20-day temporary restraining order (TRO) has been issued by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 73 in Sagay City, Negros Occidental, barring the importation of 200,000 metric tons of refined sugar as specified in Sugar Order No. 3 of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA).

The verdict arose from a legal complaint filed by the Rural Sugar Planters Association Inc., a member of the United Sugar Producers Federation (UNIFED), led by its president Joseph Edgar Sarrosa, against the SRA, which was represented by Administrator Hermenigildo Serafica.

Executive Judge Reginald Fuentebella stated Sarrosa’s organization “has proved to the satisfaction of this court that the execution of SRA Sugar No. 3 will result in grave and irreparable loss” in a two-page judgment dated February 11, a copy of which was provided to media here on Tuesday by UNIFED.

“The magnitude of the potential injury should not be understated,” Fuentebella warned, “since the sugar sector, directly and indirectly, affects the lives of nearly three million Filipinos.”

On February 24, at 9 a.m., a video conference hearing on the motion for a writ of the preliminary injunction will be held.

The Philippines’ top sugarcane-producing province, Negros Occidental, produces over 60% of the country’s sugar.

Sarrosa, together with fellow directors Lawyer Edgardo AcuΓ±a, Paul Azcona, and Andre Corro, held a news conference at the UNIFED office here to convey the federation’s displeasure with the sugar importation, which is slated to arrive on March 1.

The imported refined sugar would mostly benefit industrial users, who include the country’s largest food and beverage producers.

“We led the filing of the TRO at the request of our planter-members who expected (Sugar Order No. 3) to result in lower sugar prices,” Sarrosa said, adding that a copy of the TRO was already on its way to Manila and will be served to Serafica on Tuesday.

Serafica, he claimed, should know the ramifications of an “ill-timed and ill-planned” sugar order because he is a planter and was once a member of the UNIFED.

Sarrosa added that UNIFED, which represents more than 30,000 planters across the country, is not opposed to sugar importation, but that it should be “calibrated, timed, and equitable to all,” and not done during the milling season.

The sugar milling season typically runs from September through May.

“Sugar importation has no foundation.” “We want Sugar Order No. 3 to be declared unlawful,” said AcuΓ±a, a former member of the Negros Occidental’s second district provincial board.

The damage to the sugarcane plantations, according to Azcona, a planter based in Kabankalan, which was badly hit by Typhoon Odette last December, should not justify importation because the affected crops have been planted for the next crop year and will not affect production for the current crop year.

“We all got back to normal after the sugar centrals in the south ceased grinding for a week.” “It’s (importation) incredibly ill-timed because all those refineries are up and running right now,” he continued.

UNIFED president Manuel Lamata said in a statement that the claimed damage inflicted by SRA and Serafica with the issuance of Sugar Order No. 3 must be stopped.

“Instead of preserving the industry, he has sabotaged our efforts to increase production and properly compensate our farmers so that, at the very least, they can live a decent life, especially in the face of the pandemic,” he continued.

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