Sunday, August 01, 2021

Congress scrutinizes SRA's performance

THE performance of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) is now being scrutinized by Congress, especially on the implementation of the Sugarcane Industry Development Act (Sida).

Negros Occidental Third District Representative Jose Francisco Benitez, who presided over the House Inquiry on measures to strengthen the sugar industry after congress passed a resolution opposing the Sugar Liberalization, said they are discussing two bills and a resolution pertaining to amendments on the Sida Law authored by his brother former congressman Alfredo Benitez.

"It's really an inquiry on how to best improve the function of the SRA and the implementation of the Sida Law based on issues that emerged last year when congressmen united against the sugar liberalization," he said.

Benitez said it was Representative Stephen Paduano who pushed that an inquiry on SRA be held in Negros. Issues against the SRA are the failure of the agency to fully utilize the P2 billion annual budget for the sugar industry under Sida and that the Department of Budget and Management said it cannot fully utilize the said budget.

"It is now up to us to put our side of the equation and do our share to make sure the industry functions well, efficiently and competitively or else the threat of the liberalization will always loom us," Benitez said.

Representative Deogracias Victor Savellano has filed Resolution No. 225, directing the appropriate house committee to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation as to the reported failure of the SRA in the implementation of 10659 or Sida if 2015 causing adverse effects to the sugar industry in general and notably to the small farmers and workers.

Representative Michael Romero under House Bill 997, on the other hand, proposes to increase the annual supplemental budget under the Sida Law from the present annual budget of P2 billion to P5 billion, which breakdown would include 15 percent to go to grants to block farms under the block farm program; 15 percent for socialized credit under the farm support and farm mechanization programs; 15 percent for research and development, capability building and technology transfer activities under research and development, extension services, human resources development and farm support programs: 5 percent for scholarship grants; 50 percent for infrastructure support programs.

Under House Bill 2971, Representative Manuel Sagarbarria proposes to amend Section 11 of Republic Act 10659 to ensure a proportionate allocation of the Sida funds based on productivity and the strengthening of the Sugar Regulatory Administration’s supervisory powers on the importation of sugar.

On the proportionate allocation of funds, Sagarbarria explained that if a mill district produces 15 percent of the total net sugar produced in a year, then 15 percent of the following year’s program of expenditure should be allocated to that district.

“Because mill districts have varying production levels, it stands to reason that the allocation of expenditures should be proportionate to such production levels,” he said.

He said by basing the expenditure on productivity, the proposed amendment intends to foster healthy competition among mill districts.

“Districts are incentivized to produce more sugar if there is an expectation of greater funding as a reward,” Sagarbarria added.


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