By Dominique Gabriel G. Bañaga
Following the appointment of Ormoc City sugar planter Hermenegildo Serafica as administrator for the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA), replacing Atty. Anna Rosario Paner, Department of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol yesterday called it an assurance the agency would not be abolished.
The cabinet official, who is currently in Negros Occidental on a two-day visit, said President Rodrigo Duterte only “floated the idea” of eliminating SRA.
Reacting to recent statements by Paner regarding her tenure at the SRA post, saying critics within the agency were constantly seeking out her “weaknesses,” along with claiming Piñol supposedly said to her, “You are not my choice” after her oath-taking for the post, he said, “I will not play her game.”
“She can say all she wants,” he added. “What use would it be if I engage her?”
However, in response to her comments about the alleged oath-taking incident, Piñol asserted, “I was the one who endorsed her.”
The agriculture secretary is in the province to meet with sugar workers and industry stakeholders.
“We would like to tackle the very serious problems of the industry,” he said. “We are going to work on this together.”
Piñol said one of the current issues is the insufficient utilization of funding by SRA, pointing out in 2016, less than half of the funding provided under the Sugarcane Industry Development Act (SIDA) was used.
For 2017 so far, he added, the P350 million fund with the Land Bank of the Philippines has yet to be accessed.
Meanwhile, Piñol also assured Sugar Order No. 3, which regulates the use of high fructose corn syrup, will not be lifted./WDJ