MANILA –– A federation of sugar producers on Tuesday claimed they were "made to believe" by the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr ordered the importation of sugar, prompting them to back the controversial Sugar Order No. 4.
During the Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearing on the sugar importation mess, former SRA administrator Hermenegildo Serafica defended S.O. No. 4, saying the importation was recommended by stakeholders.
"This (consultation) was conducted online on July 29... [There were] 5 sugar federations, 2 millers, 1 refiner," Serafica told senators.
However, United Sugar Producers Federation (Unifed) president Manuel Lamata said SRA duped them to endorse the order.
"We were made to believe that the President ordered the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar because it was a national emergency. So we signed, because who are we to question the wisdom of the President?" Lamata said.
"We were shocked to believe na illegal pala," he added.
Lamata said S.O. No. 4 was full of "anomalies" and did not contain what was initially agreed upon.
"We signed on [importation of] refined. What happened with S.O. No. 4 was half was raw, half was refined. We never signed for that. We can never allow brown sugar to be imported because Negros is already milling. If that comes down to Negros patay ang mga planters namin, bagsak ang presyo. We will never allow that," Lamata explained.
Lamata also called out Serafica's alleged failure as SRA chief.
"Si Mr. Serafica, wakwak nang wakwak na wala na daw asukal, hindi naman sya nagpa-survey, ilang beses na I wrote him 4 or 5 times you make a national survey, that's the job of SRA," he said.
Lamata said SRA "has never done a survey of sugar mills and bodegas" to conclude that there was indeed a sugar shortage.
"In the past administrations, SRA used to make 3 surveys in 1 year, before the start of milling, in the middle of milling, after milling. Then you can make an exact data on [whether] the country [should] import or not to import," he said.
"Eto siya po never has he made a survey so how can we say and justify that there is a shortage?" Lamata added.
Serafica said the office of SRA Deputy Administrator for Regulations, headed by Guillermo Tejida III, is in charge of the surveys.
Serafica also denied deceiving stakeholders.
The Senate panel is set to hold another hearing regarding the fiasco.