Philippines

Industry leaders on edge after Duterte vows to abolish sugar promoter

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

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iStock
Industry heads are resigned to the fate of their segment’s official promoter, which the Philippines president recently vowed to close in a bid to streamline government and curb corruption.

They said they will respect whatever action is taken by Rodrigo Duterte on the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA), even though it's proposed abolition would have a massive effect on an industry reeling in the face of a proposed sugar tax on sweetened drinks. 

In a speech, the Filipino strongman leader had hinted at the administration’s supposed nefarious practices and slammed its use of highly paid consultants. 

Temperatures were later lowered after agriculture secretary Emmanuel Piñol clarified that Duterte had just been floating an idea on the SRA’s abolition.

In a statement, the Sugar Alliance of the Philippines said closing the authority would leave the industry reeling, so soon after the start of the milling season.

It said that more than 5m people directly and indirectly employed by the sugar industry would be affected if the SRA, which was established 21 years ago to promote the growth and development of the sugar industry through greater participation of the private sector and to improve the working conditions of labourers

It also voiced hopes that the Duterte administration would see merit in allowing the industry development body to continue after it had “served and protected the interest of the industry from threats of sugar smuggling and challenges of globalisation for so long​”.

This year has been equally challenging for the industry, and some we've surpassed because of the support we got from the president​,” the industry body’s statement said. 

We acknowledge that there are kinks we need to resolve, and that can and will happen with everyone's cooperation​.”

We will respect and abide by his decision​,” the group added.

Yet some associations are not so sanguine. Enrique Rojas, president of National Federation of Sugarcane Planters, called on the president to reconsider his statement to close the SRA.

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

Meanwhile, Manuel Lamata, president of United Sugar Producers Federation of the Philippines, said the abolition of SRA would spell disaster for the sugar industry.

The president should fire the guilty, but not abolish the agency that has been doing its job​,” Lamatta said.

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