Sugar industry leaders remain hopeful over fate of SRA

SUGAR industry leaders in Negros Occidental have expressed concern over President Rodrigo Duterte’s plan to abolish the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA).

Negros Occidental produces about 60 percent of the country’s sugar output.

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

“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,” he said.

Rojas said there are many sincere and capable persons within the sugar industry who can lead the SRA, adding that a change in leadership can address the President's apprehensions.

“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,” Rojas said.

Manuel Lamata, president of United Sugar Producers’ Federation of the Philippines Inc., said Sunday that Duterte should fire whoever is guilty, but should not abolish an institution that has been doing its job.

He said that 600 employees will be left jobless should the plan push through.

“And it’s going to be a disaster for the industry. I pray that the President gets enlightened by the situation,” Lamata added.

‘Uncertainty’

Former Negros Occidental governor Rafael Coscolluela said the President’s statement regarding the SRA’s abolition “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,” said Coscolluela, a former SRA head.

Moreover, he said the alleged corruption can be addressed in other ways.

Coscolluela said: “For example, an allegedly corrupt Interior Secretary didn't warrant shutting down the whole agency. That applies to other ‘corrupt’ agencies as well. 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, the former governor said.

“In the meantime, the industry is advised to brace itself. We're in for more difficult times than we anticipated,” he added.

In a speech before the business executives in Cagayan de Oro City Saturday, Duterte said he would ask Congress to draft a measure that would abolish the two agencies – the Road Board and SRA.

"If you can't control corruption in government, your life will not improve. That's why I will get rid of it. When I go back next week, I will abolish one to three agencies. The Road Board [and] Sugar Regulatory [Administration]. I will abolish it. Just place it in an office," the President said at the closing rites of the 26th Mindanao Business Conference.

"I will abolish them. I will suggest to Congress to abolish that. Their funds should also be returned. Return it to Congress. Let Congress decide," he added.

SRA, which was created on May 28, 1986, through Executive Order 18, is mandated to promote the growth and development of the sugar industry through greater participation of the private sector and to improve the working conditions of the laborers.

The Road Board was created under Republic Act 8794 to impose a motor vehicle user's charge on owners of all types of motor vehicles. (with reports from TDE and SunStar Philippines)
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