(PNA Bacolod file photo)

BACOLOD CITY – The largest sugar bloc in Negros Island has warned groups that will participate in the importation under the Sugar Regulatory Administration’s (SRA) Sugar Order (SO) No. 3 that the move will be considered “abetting an illegal act”.

The statement was issued on Friday by the more than 10,000-member Associacion de Agricultores de la Carlota y Pontevedra Inc. (AALCPI) based in La Carlota City, Negros Occidental, whose general manager David Alba is an intervenor in a case that secured preliminary injunctions against SO 3.

“Let this serve as a warning to all traders and importers who will join this mockery. We will petition that all imported sugar brought in under this order will be declared as smuggled sugar,” Alba said.

On May 2, SRA chief Hermegenildo Serafica released Memorandum Circular 11, stating that SRA is now processing applications from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao traders, except Western Visayas, to import 200,000 metric tons of standard grade refined sugar and bottler’s grade refined sugar.

This, despite the regional trial courts (RTC) in Sagay City and Himamaylan City in Negros Occidental issued separate preliminary injunctions on SO 3.

“Maintain the status quo to be effective until the termination of this case unless earlier lifted,” the order of RTC Sagay City Branch 73 Executive Judge Reginald Fuentebella stated.

“Anyone who is a participant in bringing in imported sugar, using the memorandum circular issued by SRA Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica will be deemed abetting an illegal act in outright disrespect of the law and we will file the corresponding charges against them,” said Alba, who also heads the La Carlota Mill District Multi-Purpose Cooperative.

Issued on February 2, the SO 3 allows the importation of 200,000 metric tons of refined sugar for industrial users, mainly major food and beverage manufacturers, between March 1 and May 1, but the sugar producers called it “ill-timed” as it would happen at the peak of the milling season.

Alba said the implementation of SO 3 is a “sheer disrespect of the law and violates the preliminary injunctions issued by the courts”.

“These officials make themselves believe they are above the law,” he added. (PNA)