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Planters seek declaration of imported sugar as ‘smuggled’

BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN

An intervenor in a case that secured preliminary injunctions against the Sugar Regulatory Administration has warned legal actions against “all traders and importers” who will participate in the sugar importation program under the controversial Sugar Order No. 3.

“Anyone who is a participant in bringing in imported sugar, using the memorandum circular issued by Sugar Regulatory Administrator, Hermenegildo Serafica will be deemed abetting an illegal act in outright disrespect of the law and we will file the corresponding charges against them,” David Alba, General Manager of the Associacion de Agricultores de la Carlota y Pontevedra, Inc. (AALCPI) said.

“Let this serve as a warning to all traders and importers who will join this mockery that we will petition that all imported sugar brought in under this order will be declared as smuggled sugar,” he added.

Alba who also heads the La Carlota Mill District Multi-Purpose Cooperative (LCMDMPC) represented the two groups as intervenor in the case originally filed by the Negros Occidental Federation of Farmers’ Association.

The United Sugar Producers Federation (UNIFED) said it will pursue charges against Agriculture Secretary William Dar and Serafica for authorizing sugar importation despite a pending case against it.

In a statement, UNIFED president Manuel Lamata said that they will ask the courts 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 Sugar Order Number 3.”

In February, the Sagay City and Himamaylan City Regional Trial Courts issued separate preliminary injunctions against SO No. 3.

In a Memorandum Circular release May 2, SRA said they are now processing applications from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao traders, with the exception of Region 6, to import 200,000 metric tons of standard grade refined sugar and bottler’s grade refined sugar as part of their sugar import program under SO 3.

Lamata said that the exception of Region 6 stems from the fact that we successfully filed a Temporary Restraining Order against SO 3 and got a Writ of Preliminary Injunction which in effect puts everything in status quo until resolved by the courts.

“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,” he added.

Alba said that they are set to file Indirect Contempt charges against Serafica and Dar, along with the legal team of SRA involved in the pending case.

“This is sheer disrespect of the law and violates the Preliminary Injuctions issued by the courts. These officials make themselves believe they are above the law,” Alba added.

In a statement, Serafica said that the SRA will stand by its decision to import as it is in possession of data confirming low sugar supplies.

Alba also criticized Dar for his “indifference to the plight of the farmers, especially at this time when we are beset with outrageously high cost of productions like fertilizers and fuel which are the basic farm inputs much needed in sugar farms.”

Lamata said that UNIFED will also “file corresponding charges to all traders who will participate in this importation program for making a mockery of the law.”

“It is very clear that someone is out to make money in this exercise knowing that they are on their way out at the expense of the sugar industry,” Lamata said, expecting that with this recent memorandum, sugar prices will be once again affected.

He stressed that UNIFED is not against importation as it is a need. But he pointed out that they are against the exclusivity to industrial users, which has never happened in the history of the sugar industry.*

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