Palace told in July: Sugar available but SRA ‘withholding release’

A letter sent by a group of sugar producers on 4 July to President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. reveals that the country has “outstanding/unshipped export raw sugar… that could be tapped by the SRA [Sugar Regulatory Administration] to augment our domestic sugar supply and partially alleviate the shortage.”

[Related story: SRA made up sugar shortage]

The seven-page letter, a copy of which was obtained by Daily Tribune, was signed by Antonio Stephan C. Chan, chairman and president of sugar producers Central Azucarera De Bais, Inc. and Central Azucarera De San Antonio, Inc., and was received by the Office of the President on 5 July.

In it, Chan argued that the “severe (sugar) shortage situation” currently being experienced by the country is the result of “the SRA’s propensity to allocate export sugar, compounded by its import and export replenishment programs.”

According to Chan, as early as January this year when the SRA “projected a deficit in sugar supply,” their group had sent the agency a letter on January 28 urging it to “authorize the reclassification of our companies’ combined volume of 9,679.232 metric tons of outstanding Class ‘A’ raw sugar to Class ‘B’ raw sugar to be sold in the domestic market in order to ease the sugar situation.”

In other words, the sugar companies had sugar that could ease the local shortage – but this was Class “A” sugar earmarked for export under the SRA’s rules. What the sugar producers wanted was for the SRA to reclassify the sugar to Class “B” so it could instead be sold to the local market.

On June 28, however, or two days before Marcos Jr. became President, the sugar producers received a copy of a letter from SRA administrator Hermenegildo Serafica (now resigned) informing them that their appeal had been denied per an SRA board resolution dated 13 June 2022, “without stating the reasons for the said denial or even attaching a copy of the June 13, 2022 Resolution,” said Chan.

Chan blasted the SRA’s decision as “unreasonable, arbitrary and discriminatory,” pointing out that the SRA had allocated local sugar for exportation, only to eventually resort to importation of the staple. “Even from a lay person’s perspective, importation happens when there is a shortage – not when there is a surplus,” Chan stressed.

The sugar producers said they had repeatedly informed the SRA, in at least six letters sent to the agency, of the availability of sugar that could be reclassified for domestic consumption. Still, the SRA refused to act on the matter, which Chan described as “deliberate inaction.”

“No sugar-producing country in the world exports their sugar when domestic prices are higher and when the sugar supply is clearly insufficient to cater to the needs of the domestic market,” reiterated the sugar producers. “In short, there should be sufficiency in the supply of sugar to cater to the needs of our consumers.” Citing Executive Order No. 18, which “spells out the sequence of priority in the allocation of sugar,” Chan said that sugar production “must be first ‘for local consumption,’ and only if there is surplus in supply, ‘for exportation and strategic reserves.’”

Chan blasted Serafica’s move to blame the sugar shortage on some producers’ resistance to the SRA import program when the SRA official had allegedly “concealed the fact that CAB and CASA [Chan’s group] have been ready, willing and able to sell their Class ‘A’ raw sugar to the domestic market to augment the supply of sugar.” It was the SRA, charged Chan, “that was withholding the release of 9.679.232 metric tons of raw sugar for sale to local manufacturers.”

The group’s letter concluded by urging the President to address the sugar shortage immediately, specifically by directing the SRA to reclassify all available raw sugar earmarked for exportation to make them available for domestic consumption.

The letter was sent to the Palace on July 4. More than a month later, no word yet on the President’s response to the appeal of the sugar producers.










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