• Sugar leaders back SRA vs beverage firm

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    BACOLOD CITY: Leaders of the sugar industry in Negros Occidental have expressed support to the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) in a case filed against its officials by beverage giant Coca-Cola-FEMSA as they plan to boycott its products.

    Francis de la Rama, president of the Confederation of Sugar Producers Association (Confed), said his group and the Sugar Alliance “will do everything we can to continue protecting this industry as all cost.”

    “We pray that the courts will see the merits of SRA’s actions and its effects, if not implemented, to the millions who are directly and indirectly involved in the sugar industry,” de la Rama said in a statement.

    Manuel Lamata, president of the United Sugar Producers Federation of the Philippines, said the sugar industry will call for a boycott of beverage firms using high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and a massive rally will be held nationwide to express their disgust over multinational firms that, instead of giving jobs to Filipino workers, are giving the jobs to the Chinese.

    Coca-Cola FEMSA Philippines has named SRA chief Anna Rosario Paner, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol and Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon as respondents in a civil case it filed for the nullification of Sugar Order No. 3.

    The civil case for declaration of nullity with extremely urgent prayer for issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) or a writ of preliminary injunction was filed on March 3 before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 98.

    Also included were Hermenegildo Serafica and Roland Beltran in their official capacities as members of the Sugar Board.

    Coca-Cola is asking the court to declare null and void Sugar Order No. 3 Series of 2016-17 entitled “Guidelines on the Issuance of Clearance for Release of Imported HFCS and Chemically Free Fructose” and to enjoin respondents SRA and the Bureau of Customs from implementing the administrative issuance for allegedly being patently unconstitutional.

    On February 17, the SRA ordered the issuance of a clearance for the release of imported HFCS and chemically pure fructose in whatever intensity or form.

    Under the order, an importer or consignee of imported HFCS must be an international trader duly-registered with the SRA at the time of the application for clearance for release.

    Sugar Order No. 3 allows the SRA to classify HFCS as reserve sugar, or for release into the domestic or US markets.

    Former governor and SRA administrator Rafael Coscolluela said “it will be interesting to see how SRA’s Sugar Order stands up in court. But it’s good to have the legal question resolved once and for all.”

    The hearing on the TRO was held last Tuesday and the SRA filed its opposition on Wednesday, Paner said, adding that the hearing of Coca-Cola’s application for injunction is set on March 20.

    Eugene Y. Adiong

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