Sugar industry says SRA import plan risks contempt of court

Reuters

THE United Sugar Producers Federation (UNIFED) said on Friday it would seek to pursueIfcials in contempt if they implement Draft Sugar Ordinance (SO) No. 4, which provides for the import of 350,000 metric tons (MT) of raw materials and reIfno sugar.

UNIFED President Manuel R. Lamata said in a statement that the group will be in court to declare Sugar Regulatory Administrator Hermenegildo R. SeraIfca in defiance if he signs the order.

“As soon as Administrator Serafica signs and formalizes this draft SO #4, we will take him to court…in contempt and seek his arrest” for acting on a case currently being decided by regional trial courts seeking a freeze of SO #4.3, Mr. Lamata said.

Draft SO No. 4 calls for the import of 250,000 MT of reIfned sugar, of which 150,000 MT must be premium or bottling gradeIfno sugar. The remaining 100,000 MT will consist of raw sugar.

According to the SRA, estimated raw sugar production for the 2021-2022 crop year is expected to decline further to 1.98 million metric tons from 2.07 million metric tons.

“The milling of sugar is slowly ending… raw sugar prices at the factory site have also increased,” according to the draft order.

Mr. Lamata called the proposed order “similar to and larger in volume than the previous order that prompted our lawsuit against him and the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) last February.”

In February, the Regional Magistrate Courts of Sagay City and Himamaylan City issued separate preliminary injunctions against the import of 200,000 MT as required by SO No. 3.

“I will personally bring sugar for Mr. Serafica’s coffee to his prison cell when this happens. This SO No. 4 proposal is a slap in the face to the two regional trial courts here that have issued rulings to suspend any import program pending a final resolution of cases that have been found to cause damage to the sugar industry said Mr. Lamata. mentioned.

“The order amounts to a midnight deal which will obviously greatly benefit industrial users, especially bottling companies. This proposed import program clearly favors a particular sector and that is what we oppose. Notwithstanding the cases pending before our courts, the draft proposal makes it clear that Administrator Serafica will do everything possible to defy court orders just to accommodate the bottling companies,” he added.

The SRA was asked to comment on the UNIFED statement but did not respond in time. — Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson

Rachel J. Bradford