De Lima welcomes Sagay City court’s TRO vs sugar importation order; hits SRA’s lack of consultation with key stakeholders

Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima welcomed the ruling by the Negros Occidental Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 73 issuing a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the Sugar Regulatory Administration’s (SRA) order allowing the importation of 200,000 metric tons of standard and bottler’s grade refined sugar.

De Lima, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, maintained that allowing the unnecessary importation of sugar could badly hurt the local sugar industry.

“I join the United Sugar Producers Federation (UNIFED) in welcoming the decision of the Sagay City RTC to issue a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the Sugar Regulatory Administration’s (SRA) order allowing the importation of 200,000 metric tons of standard and bottler’s grade refined sugar,” she said in a Dispatch from Crame No. 1219

“The key stakeholders here are the farmers/sugar producers. We cannot overemphasize the need to protect local production. If we allow the unnecessary importation of sugar, our local sugar industry will suffer.

“The SRA cannot invoke the damage done by Typhoon “Odette” as excuse to allow importation as the production were merely interrupted for about a week, according to UNIFED. They also guarantee that the present production is enough to meet the local demand,” she added.

The Negros Occidental RTC recently issued a TRO against Sugar Order No. 3, the import plan which the SRA said is needed to create a buffer supply between sugar seasons.

The TRO was served at the SRA main office in Quezon City last February 15. The order is in effect until March 2.

It can be noted that the UNIFED led the filing of the TRO, citing the need to halt imports due to depressed prices and oversupply.

De Lima said it is clear from the Sugar Order No. 3 that it was made without consulting local industry producers.

“The problem here is the failure to reach out to stakeholders. Intentional or not, what is missing here is the voice of stakeholders in the determination of policy,” she said.

“It appears that SRA merely acted on a limited concern over the extent of the damage caused by typhoon Odette but failed to discuss with the stakeholder the actual effect to the overall local sugar industry.

“If they did, they would have known that the recovery would be faster than they initially predicted and that there is no great rush to import 200,000 metric tons of sugar. Doing so would have shown that the proposed importation would be economically devastating to the local industry,” she added.

De Lima pointed out that industrial sugar consumers will always attempt to push the price of sugar down to increase their profit margins but the government cannot allow unnecessary importation of sugar because it will come at the expense of the local sugar industry.

“Especially now at the time when we need our economy to recover, we must seize every opportunity to promote buying local. SRA Sugar Order No. 3 goes against that,” she added.

In a separate statement, the lady Senator from Bicol also urges authorities to conduct an investigation to determine the cause of rising price of sugar.

“Kailangan tukuyin ang ugat ng mga dagdag pasanin sa ating mga local producer at consumer, lalo na kung sinasabi namang hindi ito talagang dulot ng kalamidad, para matugunan agad at walang sinuman ang nalulugi o naaagrabyado,” De Lima said.

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