BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – The president of a major planters federation here has called for the resignation of Sugar Regulatory Administration chief Hermenigildo Serafica who has allowed sugar imports at the peak of milling season in Sugarlandia.
“There seems to be a midnight deal between the SRA, the Department of Agriculture and a giant bottling company to be given this preferential treatment,” Manuel Lamata, president of the United Sugar Producers Federation (UNIFED) was quoted to have said in a news release from their publicist.
He added they will eventually reveal and boycott the beverage firm.
Serafica, a lawyer, is a former member of UNIFED and recently issued Sugar Order No. 3 allowing the importation of 200,000 metric tons of refined sugar for industrial users.
Lamata, in a separate release, was quoted to have said that “this is appalling that the very agency that is supposed to protect us seems determined to kill the industry.”
“This is adding insult to injury,” former Sugar Regulatory Board planters representative, lawyer Dino Yulo was also quoted to have said in the same release.
SRA had justified the order by pointing out the need to stabilize the rising cost of sugar amid the expected low productivity in areas that were affected by Typhoon Odette.
Yulo called the order “very ill-timed.”
The former vice governor found it ironic, however, that while the clamor for high price of sugar comes from small vendors, “the one that will clearly benefit in this importation are industrial users, especially bottling companies that have been provided half of the import quota.”
Lamata on the other hand said that it is “very frustrating for SRA to make this import order a priority when it has not even addressed our request to urge the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Trade and Industry to put a cap on fertilizers’ cost which was put forth since last year.”
“They only see the increasing cost of sugar in the market but they do not acknowledge the forces driving those prices up and much of it can be attributed to fertilizers that almost tripled its cost and fuel that has breached the P50 per liter mark,” Lamata said, adding that if you weigh everything, “whatever increase in sugar prices we are seeing in the market, goes to our paying high cost of farm inputs.”
“It is appalling that here is a giant bottling company who will gain much from this importation program to avoid buying from the local industry. They’ve been at this before and we are not surprised that they are at it again,” Lamata added.