Sugar bloc leaders buck SRA abolition

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A SUGAR FARM worker in Negros Occidental. (Courtesy of deddeda.photoshelter.com)

BACOLOD City – Sugar industry leaders expressed surprise and opposed plans by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte to abolish the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA).

In statement sent to media outfits on Sept. 11, 2017, lawyer Emilio Yulo, spokesman of the Sugar Alliance of the Philippines, said “the proposed abolition of the SRA will have an effect on the sugar industry, especially now that milling season has just started.”

“Over five million people are directly and indirectly dependent on the sugar industry from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao and we are confident the administration will see merit in the continuance of the agency that has for so long served and protected the interest of the industry from threats of sugar smuggling and challenges of globalization,” Yulo said.

“This year has been equally challenging for the industry and some we’ve surpassed because of the support we got from the President. We acknowledge that there are kinks we need to resolve and that can, and will happen with everyone’s cooperation. But at the end of the day, it is the prerogative of the president as chief executive and we will respect and abide with his decision.”

Enrique Rojas, president of the National Federation of Sugar Planters, said in a separate statement that “for more than 30 years, SRA has proven itself as a government agency which protects the interests of consumers and promotes the welfare of sugar producers.”

“If the President is not satisfied with the performance of the immediate past administrator, it is not the fault of the entire agency. We suggest that, if the SRA leadership has committed any wrongdoing, the President should let the axe fall where it may, but he should spare the whole organization,” Rojas said.

“We hope that the President will reconsider his statement and allow SRA to continue, particularly now that the sugar industry is facing a multitude of problems,” he added.

Former Negros Occidental governor and SRA chief Rafael Coscolluela said that the abolition of the SRA “will create a lot of uncertainty.”

“Until things clear up, we won’t know what kind of policy environment we will have to deal with. That’s not a good way to start the new milling season. Personally, I think an outright abolition of SRA at this time is too drastic and untimely. The alleged corruption can be addressed in other ways. For example, an allegedly corrupt DILG Secretary didn’t warrant shutting down the whole agency. That applies to other ‘corrupt’ agencies as well,” Coscolluela said.

“So why the harsh move against the SRA? Industry leaders may find it useful to ask the President to reconsider the move and, if it’s truly warranted, to study an orderly transition to something that is demonstrably better. In the meantime, the industry is advised to brace itself. We’re in for more difficult times than we anticipated.”

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol is set to visit Negros Occidental on Oct. 28 to meet with sugar industry stakeholders to conduct consultations on the relevance of SRA.



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