Bacolod City – Sugar industry stakeholders here said there is nothing political in their opposition to the proposed sugar importation, contrary to accusations hurled by Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) chief Hermigildo Serafica.
“There is nothing political about our stance, this is purely survival of the sugar industry,” the planters’ group said in a statement recently.
Serafica claimed that the issue on sugar importation has become “very political” after his draft proposal of Sugar Order No. 4 was leaked to the public.
Former SRA Board Member, Atty. Dino Yulo said Serafica is “clearly missing the point.
“There is no politics involved in our opposition to SO 4, but the survival of the sugar industry. Obviously amidst the prevailing circumstances wherein fertilizers and fuel costs are soaring, Serafica should not expect planters to take these sitting down especially when it is very clear that the new sugar order will benefit a particular sector, in this case, the industrial users and the bottlers’ group.”
SO 4 draft signed by Serafica seeks to import 350,000 metric tons (MT) of sugar including 250,000 MT refined sugar, 150,000 MT premium grade or bottlers’ grade refined sugar, and the remaining 100,000 MT as raw sugar.
Yulo said “any hint of sugar importation rumor, especially in such quantity and allocation, is prone to a price drop as evidenced in the previous release of Sugar Order No. 3 which fortunately was halted by the courts.”
Yulo explained that a week before SO 3 was issued, there was an immediate price drop of P30-40 per bag of sugar. When it was published, “the drop in sugar prices ranged between P150-200 per 50-kilo bag.”
SRA board member Atty. Rolly Beltran, who has not signed the draft proposal, also questioned why the importation program is being limited to a particular class of importers.
“Why not make the importation program all inclusive? Why not allow the major stakeholders to participate in the importation program rather than to a select few, favoring a particular class of importers to the prejudice of the sugar industry as well as the economy in general,” Beltran asked.
“It is my position that the sugar importation program should be made available equitably to major stakeholders and to benefit the sari-sari stores, wet markets, groceries, supermarkets, and the like. These are the vulnerable sectors of our society that are principally affected by the rising prices of sugar,” he added.
Enrique Tayo of the Negros Occidental Federation of Farmers Association that filed a case against the previous sugar order said “there is nothing political in our move to question the draft SO 4 because our claims are factual and have legal basis, and no such political considerations.”
Yulo clarified that planters have no qualms about importation.
“But it should not be exclusive to industrial users and must be justifiable to dispel doubts. Serafica should not use prevailing prices affecting domestic consumers as a smokescreen when they are clearly not going to directly benefit from this new sugar order.”
“He should make the importation all inclusive and allow stakeholders to participate in the importation program rather than making it exclusive to a particular sector to the prejudice of the majority of stakeholders,” Yulo added. (Dolly Yasa via The Daily Guardian (TDG), photo courtesy of TDG)