Sugar industry hopeful Duterte will reconsider SRA abolition

Louise Maureen Simeon - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The local sugar industry is hopeful President Duterte will reconsider his decision to abolish the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA), saying such move might be disastrous for the sector.

Industry stakeholders, especially in top sugar producing province Negros Occidental, remain optimistic Duterte will change his mind to abolish the Department of Agriculture-attached agency that was tainted with corruption issues.

“We hope the President gets enlightened by the situation. The abolition of SRA will spell disaster for the sugar industry,” United Sugar Producers Federation of the Philippines Inc. president Manuel Lamata said.

Duterte over the weekend vowed to abolish SRA and just place it in an office instead, after slamming the agency for hiring consultants who get paid at least P200,000 monthly, even higher than his salary.

“The President should just fire the guilty, but not abolish the agency that has been doing its job,” Lamata added.

The National Federation of Sugarcane Planters (NFSP) also backed and defended SRA, emphasizing the agency has protected the interest of consumers and promoted the welfare of sugar producers since its establishment.

“If the President is not satisfied with the performance of the immediate past administrator, it is not the fault of the entire agency,” NFSP president Enrique Rojas said.

“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 added.

Likewise, former SRA chief Rafael Coscolluela said the outright abolition of SRA at this time is “too drastic and untimely,” adding the recent pronouncement might create a lot of uncertainty and is not a good way to start the new milling season.

The new sugar crop year just started this month and will end by August next year.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol earlier said he plans to talk to the President regarding the move but maintained he would support whatever decision the President may come up with.

Created under Executive Order 18 in May 1986, the SRA aims 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.

It is also mandated to develop and implement policies supporting the Philippine Biofuels Program and ensure security of domestic sugar supply.

The latest law for the industry, Sugarcane Industry Development Act of 2015, mandates SRA and other government entities to promote the competitiveness of the sugarcane industry and maximize the utilization of sugarcane resources, and improve the incomes of farmers and workers, through improved productivity, product diversification, job generation and increased efficiency of sugar mills.

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