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Sugar producers demand that the DA and SRA resume the import order.

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – With over 30,000 member-planters, the country’s largest sugar producers group has chastised the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) for allowing the importation of refined sugar despite a court order prohibiting it.

After granting the green light to implement Sugar Order (SO) No. 3, United Sugar Producers Federation (UNIFED) president Manuel Lamata, who is headquartered in Negros Occidental, said they will approach the courts to prosecute Agriculture Secretary William Dar and SRA Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica in contempt.

“(We) will seek the courts to issue instant arrest warrants against the two officials for disobeying court orders and disregarding the rights of sugar stakeholders who requested a status quo on SO 3,” he added.

Between March 1 and May 1, SO 3 enables the importation of 200,000 metric tons of refined sugar for industrial customers, mostly big food and beverage industries, although sugar producers deemed it “ill-timed” because it would occur at the milling season’s peak.

Separate preliminary injunctions on the execution of SO 3 were issued by the regional trial courts (RTC) in Sagay City and Himamaylan City in Negros Occidental in February.

In his decision, RTC Sagay City Branch 73 Executive Judge Reginald Fuentebella ordered the SRA to stop implementing SO 3 and to maintain the status quo until the lawsuit is resolved, unless it is lifted earlier.

UNIFED got a copy of Serafica’s Memorandum Circular 11 dated May 2, which stated that SRA is presently considering applications from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao traders, except Western Visayas, to import 200,000 metric tons of standard and bottler’s grade refined sugar.

“This flagrant disregard for the courts’ rulings from Dar and Serafica in order to cater to industrial users, particularly beverage firms, must be stopped, investigated, and prosecuted if warranted,” Lamata added.

UNIFED will also “file comparable charges against all dealers who will engage in this importation program for making a mockery of the law,” according to him.

“The UNIFED is not against importation since it is necessary,” Lamata explained, “but it is against exclusivity to industrial users, which has never happened in the history of the sugar sector.”

Dar previously stated that the decision to import specific agricultural goods like sugar is based on statistics from the Philippine Statistics Authority, and that the Philippines is expected to experience a supply shortage for commodities like sugar in the first and second quarters of 2022.

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