SUGAR industry leaders said they will respect whatever the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte on the fate of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA).
In a statement Monday, September 12, the Sugar Alliance of the Philippines (SAP) said the proposed abolition of SRA will have an effect on the sugar industry, especially now that milling season has just started.
The sugar leaders said more than five million people are directly and indirectly dependent on the sugar industry from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.
Negros Occidental produces about 60 percent of the country’s sugar output.
The sugar leaders said they are confident the administration will see merit in the continuance of the SRA that has for so long served and protected the interest of the industry from threats of sugar smuggling and challenges of globalization.
“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,” the statement reads.
The alliance in the statement said that at the end of the day, it is the prerogative of the President as chief executive to decide on the fate of the SRA.
“We will respect and abide with his decision,” they added.
Earlier, Enrique Rojas, president of National Federation of Sugarcane Planters, said he hopes “the president will reconsider his statement and allow SRA to continue.”
He added that the SRA should remain especially at this time that the sugar industry is facing a multitude of problems.
“If the president is not satisfied with the performance of the immediate past administrator, it is not the fault of the entire agency,” Rojas said.
Manuel Lamata, president of United Sugar Producers Federation of the Philippines Inc., had also said he prays that the “President gets enlightened by the situation.”
Lamata added that the abolition of SRA would spell a disaster for the sugar industry.
The president should fire the guilty, but not abolish the agency that has been doing its job, he further said.
Gawa: Abolition not rational
Labor group General Alliance of Workers Association (Gawa), in a statement on Monday, said they vehemently oppose the proposed abolition of the SRA.
“We urge President Duterte to reconsider his decision,” the group said.
The group added the planned abolition is not rational as it would result to “chaos and confusion” in the sugar industry.
“It is untimely as the industry is facing serious problems such as the impending excise tax on sugar and sweeteners and the unabated oil price increase,” the group added.
Gawa said the stakeholders of the sugar industry should be consulted especially the workers before a decision is made.
Duterte said over the weekend that he would ask the Congress to abolish the two agencies, the Road Board and SRA, due to alleged corruption.
On May 28, 1986, the SRA was created through Executive Order 18 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.
Bacolod City officials have also expressed their opposition to the plan of Duterte to abolish the SRA.
Councilor Caesar Distrito said: “It is ill-advised, anti-Negros, and no legal basis. It is only the Congress that can abolish the SRA, and the President has no authority to do so.”
He added that it will destroy the sugar industry and the economy of Negros and other sugar-producing provinces as it is the only agency that protects the sugar industry.
“If ever some officials are corrupt, then remove them but not the agency itself,” Distrito said.
Councilor Renecito Novero said he is hopeful that it will not happen.
“But if it does, I pray that there shall be a substitute agency better than SRA,” he added.
Councilor Wilson Gamboa Jr. said the industry leaders are saying that the abolition of the SRA will result to the uncertainty in the industry.
“For as long as its direction must go towards productivity and efficiency, lest it continues to be a drag to the national economy. The bottom-line is ‘compete or perish,’” he added. (with reports from Merlinda A. Pedrosa)