Former Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) chief Anna Rosario Paner, who was reportedly terminated by President Rodrigo Duterte from her post due to alleged corruption, maintained there was no anomaly when she headed the agency.
Paner, in a press conference Wednesday, September 27, at 21 Bar and Restaurant in Bacolod City, said the sugar industry is a “victim of politics” and she’s probably a “collateral damage.”
She said she believes that Duterte was “misinformed” about the situation regarding the hiring of SRA consultants.
Paner added that the consultant was hired to formulate SRA’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plan (DRRMP) for the sugarcane industry, which will be implemented for six years.
Last week, Duterte, during a speech at the gathering of public lawyers in Manila, revealed that he fired Paner due to alleged irregular hiring of consultants. The President also assailed the former SRA administrator for hiring three consultants in the Sugar Board being paid P200,000 every month.
“I believe that had the President was completely advised what the plan is about, he would have understood its importance to the industry,” Paner pointed out.
She added that she already tendered her resignation in August before Duterte made the statement last week. Her resignation was accepted through a memorandum dated September 20.
Paner said she is still thankful to Duterte for the opportunity to serve the country.
“I’ve been waiting to do that for the longest time,” she added.
Paner, who took her oath of office in November last year, said that Duterte is “still my president.”
She confirmed that she was succeeded by SRA Board Member Hermenigildo Serafica.
“I’ve seen the appointment paper. It was received by the Department of Agriculture yesterday (Tuesday),” Paner said.
Disaster management plan
Paner said the SRA hired only one lead consultant, who has three technical assistants, to complete the DRRMP in six months.
“It would have taken them a year, but I insisted it (the plan) should be done in six months, by June this year, because I wanted some budget to be allocated for the months of October to December, when the typhoons would usually hit,” she said.
“So instead of the P1.2 million being spread over one year, it was spread over six months, but still based on actual deliverables,” Paner said.
She noted that since 2015, SRA doesn’t have a disaster management plan.
“I feel strongly about disaster risk reduction. No matter what you do in terms of investment in infrastructures, plantation, year in and year out, we’re sitting ducks when it comes to disaster hitting the sugar-producing areas,” Paner said. “I believe that risk reduction management is important, given that we have to face the fact that climate change is a reality.”
The 127-page disaster management plan, which was showed by Paner to the media Wednesday, serves as a guide in the issuance of policies and prompts implementation of programs that will help the sugarcane industries respond to disasters.
Malacañang endorses plan
SRA’s disaster management plan was actually endorsed by the Malacañang and the Department of National Defense.
In Duterte’s message in the plan, the President said it is crucial for the government to implement measures that would protect the sugarcane farmers and their valuable produce.
“I therefore commend the SRA for formulating a framework for disaster preparedness and efficient relief and recovery operations during natural and man-made calamities,” he added.
President further said that he trusts the DRRMP will serve as an example for other government agencies to craft their own disaster risk reduction and management plans.
Duterte added: “Through the initiative of the SRA, I am confident that we can further promote the advancement and competitiveness of our sugarcane industry and the entire agricultural sector.”
Paner said she is also paying for her stand against the importation of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), an alternative sweetener.
She earlier issued a sugar order regulating its importation.
“But I do not regret doing what I did because had the unhampered importation of HFCS been allowed, the effects of last year's importation would have been irreversible,” she said.
Paner said her stint in the SRA was “humbling.”
“To the industry, my message is to remain steadfast. To the men and women at SRA, thank you and it was my honor to have been your administrator,” she added.