IN ITS heyday, the Philippine Sugar Industry through its influential players in Congress and the Senate, made presidents and booted them out of power. Then came Ferdinand Marcos.
According to the late Fernando “Nanding” Lopez who was one of my key informants for my book, The Negrense: A Social History of an Elite Class, it was Imelda Romualdez Marcos who persuaded him, after she went to see him personally and “cried non-stop” in his room at the Manila Hotel, until he agreed to give way to Ferdinand Marcos to run as president under the Nacionalista Party, and he, as his vice president in the crucial national election in the late 1960s. Yet, according to the stalwart of the sugar industry at the time, once Marcos won, he turned around and stabbed the planters at the back. Marcos’ major betrayal against the sector that ensured his win as President, according to Fernando Lopez, was his creation of sugar monopoly.
As president, Marcos issued P.D. 1971, purportedly to revitalize the Philippine Sugar Industry, and reorganized the Philippine Sugar Commission (Philsucom). In furtherance of the purposes and objectives of this decree, the commission caused the conversion of the National Sugar Trading Corporation (Nasutra) into a private corporation to be called the Philippine Sugar Marketing Corporation (Philsuma) not later than December 31, 1985. By virtue of P.D. 1984 (August 31, 1985), Philsuma became the sole marketing agency for exporting sugar, theoretically to be owned 100% by the sugar producers in proportion to their actual production.
While Philsucom was at the height of rationalizing the sugar industry pursuant to P.D. 1971, a political revolution broke out from February 22 to 25, 1986. On February 27, 1986, Mr. Fred J. Elizalde was appointed by the revolutionary government as officer-in-charge of the institutions that will regulate the sugar industry.
A sugar advisory council consisting of 42 sugar industry leaders from all over the country was constituted and was instructed by the President to lay out the plans for the interest of the sugar industry.
On May 28, 1986, President Corazon C. Aquino through Executive Order No. 18, created a Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA). The objectives assigned this Office are as follows:
1) To institute an orderly system in sugarcane production for the stable, sufficient and balanced production of sugar for local consumption, exportation and strategic reserve;
2) To establish and maintain such balanced relation between production and requirement of sugar and such marketing conditions as will insure stabilized prices at a level reasonably profitable to producer and fair to consumers;
3) To promote the effective merchandising of sugar and its products in the domestic and foreign markets so that those engaged in the sugar industry will be placed on a basis of economic viability;
4) To undertake such relevant studies as may be needed in the formulation of policies and in the planning and implementation of action programs required in attaining the purposes and objectives set forth under Executive Order No. 18.
Based on its original mandate, the SRA, as it stands today, 33 years after its creation to replace the corrupted Philsucom/Nasutra, failed not only “to institute an orderly system in sugarcane production for the stable, sufficient and balanced production of sugar for local consumption, exportation and strategic reserve”, it has fallen short of establishing and maintaining such balanced relation between production and requirement of sugar and such marketing conditions as will insure stabilized prices at a level reasonably profitable to producer and fair to consumers.
Recent acts of the SRA appointed officers of its Governing Board under President Duterte, show promulgation of Sugar Orders grossly inimical to sugar producers.
Most threatening to sugar producers’ survival at the start of Milling Season 2019-2020, is the controversial Sugar Order authorizing importation of 200,000 metric tons of sugar, signed only by two of SRA’s Board Member, Emilio Bernardino L. Yulo representing the planters’ sector and Roland B. Beltran, representing the millers’ sector. As pointed out by one key Sugar leader within the Planters’ Federation, the P2.6 billion those who pushed for this importation stand to gain, using “sugar shortage”, is strong motive for this betrayal of the producers.
It must be pointed out that the ones seriously affected are small planters, especially thousands of Carp farmer beneficiaries who chose to remain in sugarcane production.
As bad as Philsucom/Nasutra that led the collapse of the sugar industry under Marcos’ Dictatorship, the SRA through its ruling governing board must show stronger proof that it exists to protect the interest of the majority sugarcane planters affected by their questionable orders.