The United Sugar Producers Federation (UNIFED) threatens to seek contempt charges and even arrest Sugar Regulatory Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica if he signs the proposed sugar importation program that will allow 350,000 metric tons of raw and refined sugar into the country.
UNIFED President Manuel Lamata, in a press release, said they have received a draft of Sugar Order No. 4 which is “similar and in a bigger volume than the previous order that caused the filing of our case against him and SRA last February.”
Lamata threatens to haul Serafica to court for contempt, and even have the SRA chief arrested “defying the ongoing case filed against him related to the suspended SO 3.”
“I will personally bring sugar for Mr. Serafica’s coffee in his jail cell when that happens,” he added.
The Sagay City and Himamaylan City Regional Trial Courts had already issued separate preliminary injunctions against the importation of 200,000 metric tons of sugar under SO 3.
Lamata said the new sugar order is “a slap on the faces of the two regional trial courts here that issued rulings to halt any importation program pending a final resolution to the cases that has been deemed to cause damage to the sugar industry”.
Lamata added that the draft, issued last 5 April 2022 is “tantamount to a midnight deal that will obviously greatly benefit the industrial users, particularly the bottling companies.”
Of the proposed 350,000 metric tons of sugar imports, 250,000 metric tons will be refined sugar, 150,000 metric tons of which was specified as premium grade or bottlers’ grade refined sugar.
The 100,000 metric tons remaining will be raw sugar.
Lamata said that while they are not against any importation based on factual supply and demand data from the ground, “this proposed import program is clearly favouring a particular sector and that is what we are against at.”
Lamata believes that the new proposal, which was drafted despite the pending cases, shows that Serafica “will go to any lengths to defy court orders just to accommodate the bottling companies”.
Earlier, Senator Imee Marcos who chairs the Senate Economic Affairs Committee also called out Agriculture Secretary William Dar to refrain from signing the draft SO 4.
Marcos described our agriculture state as “an epic disaster” and warned about approving any “midnight express deal” regarding the sugar importation.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, also issued a statement condemning the proposed SO 4 citing the pending court cases. (READ also: IN FULL: UNIFED thanks Migz, Imee and SP for supporting their call to stop sugar importation)
“Our courts have already landed on the side of our sugar farmers last February, so it’s disheartening that we are having the same conversation about importation again,” Zubiri said.
“Lest the SRA will be accused of this being a midnight deal bereft of propriety and due process. They should not allow this while our farmers are harvesting their crops,” Zubiri added.