Panelo to industry proponents: Make an appointment with Duterte
By Dominique Gabriel G. Bañaga
Various sugar industry advocacy groups held a press conference over the weekend where they reiterated their call for Sugar Regulatory Administration chief Hermenegildo Serafica to resign. Luzon Federation of Sugar Planters President Arnel Toreja, who also leads the Batangas Sugar Planters Integrated Multi Purpose Cooperative, said the government official lacks in implementation.
“He has fully implemented the educational scholarship and farm-to-market road programs of the [Sugar Industry Development Act],” he explained. “But the agency is lacking implementation in terms of farm mechanization, research, and social credit.”
“Serafica can’t make a stand,” the sugar industry advocate added. “It seems he cannot defend the sugar industry.”
Toreja also pointed out, many sugar farms are now being converted into commercial or residential land.
“Sugar liberalization will hasten the land conversion rate,” he said.
Meanwhile, Save the Sugar Industry Movement lead convenor Wennie Sancho said there are approximately 840,000 workers in the sugar industry and said sugar liberalization, or the deregulation of sugar importation, would result in “unemployment and economic dislocation.”
However, Tatak Kalamay, an umbrella organization of stakeholders in the sugar industry, has not endorsed the call for Serafica’s resignation with group spokesperson Raymond Montinola saying they “have no stand yet as of now.”
“We need to get consensus nationwide from our other affiliates,” he added. “We continue to demand, however, for the SRA and Department of Agriculture to make a stand on sugar import liberalization.”
Earlier, in a letter, Roberto Cuenca, president of the Asociación de Agricultores de la Carlota y Pontevedra Inc. of Negros Occidental, said Serafica should allow somebody else to speak and stand up for the industry if he is not up to the task to do so.
“One who is brave enough to point out what is wrong with the policy of the economic managers and one who is willing to provide the government with sustainable solutions not only for the sugar industry, but also for the whole agriculture sector,” Cuenca said. “If he cannot fulfill this responsibility then we strongly believe that he should be conscientious enough to step down and resign as SRA administrator.”
In addition, the United Sugar Producers Federation of the Philippines, in a resolution passed during a board meeting on October 24, endorsed the call for Serafica’s resignation.
Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, who was in Bacolod City recently, told sugar stakeholders to file an appointment with the Office of the Secretary in Malacañan Palace in order to meet with President Rodrigo Duterte. The presidential official said stakeholders can also file a letter before the Office of the President should they lobby for Serafica’s resignation.
He added, whatever recommendation is made by economic managers over sugar liberalization, the president will evaluate complaints related to the matter./DGB, WDJ