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Zubiri pushes pro-farmer SRA

BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri is pushing a pro-farmer composition in the Sugar Regulatory Administration, following conflict between its administrator and sugar farmers in connection with the importation of sugar by SRA at the height of milling season.

I firmly believed that SRA should always be for the benefit of farmers, said Zubiri, who is being described as “champion of the sugar industry”, stressed during a press conference on Tuesday night in Talisay City.

Sugar Regulatory Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica got the ire of sugar farmers for allowing the importation of 200,000 metric tons of sugar at the peak of milling season, a move that has been called “ill-timed” as it led to a huge decrease in sugar prices.

This prompted the sugar industry leaders in Negros Occidental to seek remedy from the court, prompting Sagay Executive Judge Reginald Fuentebella to issue a writ of preliminary injunction enjoining the SRA to cease and desist from implementing Sugar Order Number 3 that allows sugar importation, and to maintain the status quo until the termination of the case.

With this development, Zubiri stressed that the SRA head and its board of directors should be pro-farmers.

Asked if he will join the call of some sugar industry leaders for the removal of Serafica as SRA head, Zubiri said “we will wait for the next administration.”

So, whoever sits as president, we will make sure to ask for a leader and members of SRA that are pro-farmers,he added.

Zubiri stressed that the fully supports the cases filed by sugar federations for a writ of preliminary injunction before a regional trial court. “I hope it remains until the next administration,” he added.

BIOFUELS ACT IMPLEMENTATION

In the midst of skyrocketing fuel prices sparked by Russia’s war on Ukraine, Zubiri also called for the stronger implementation of the Biofuels Act for alternative fuel sources.

A record big-time increase in the prices of petroleum products took effect Tuesday, at P5.85 per liter of diesel, P3.60 per liter of gasoline and kerosene by P4.10 per liter.

“With these prices, we should consider the temporary suspension of the fuel excise tax to give our people some welcome respite from the weekly increase of fuel,” Zubiri said, adding that the soaring fuel cost especially affects PUV operators and drivers who are still trying to recover from the pandemic.

So long as we are dependent on foreign oil, our prices will be dependent on the very volatile international arena as well. That is why we must strengthen our local alternative fuel sources, like biodiesel and bioethanol, which can be produced in the country,” he said.

Zubiri, who authored the Biofuels Act of 2006, said he wanted to create an alternative fuel program. “Unfortunately, the government never fully supported it, and there have been minimum investments in the country.”*

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