Cane Points: Goodbye, SRA?

Last Friday's topic within sugar industry circles was the resignation of Sugar Regulatory Administrator Atty. Anna Rosario Paner. This shouldn't have come as a surprise, because her appointment to the post was only for the period July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017.

No extension to her term was issued and she continued to serve in her post until news broke out of her resignation last Friday. In fact, she addressed the general assembly during the opening of the 64th Philsutech convention at Waterfront Hotel, Cebu City last August 16. The SRA chief's address has traditionally been an integral part of the event.

What's surprising was the allegation from a very high government official that Paner earned the presidential ire for hiring consultants with a monthly retainer of P200,000, higher than the monthly full-time salary of the President of the Republic of the Philippines! May isa pa kuno ka consultant who gets paid P20,000 per hour! Wow!

Reports and allegations are duha biente-singko. Proving them in a court of law is another matter. But when you are occupying an appointive position which requires unblemished trust and confidence of the appointing authority, a mere "careless whisper" can cause the loss of your post, more so if you are already "over-staying".

Anyway, the topic on Paner's resignation carried over into Saturday, as people pondered who will replace her. Will it be Sugar Board Member Hermie Serefica or Sugar Alliance of the Philippines spokesman Atty. Dino Yulo?

Hermie is recommended by the Sec Manny Pi?ol, Finance Sec Carlos Dominguez III, and Sen. Migz Zubiri. Dino is recommended by the Sugar Alliance. Who between the two? Hermie or Dino?

I've been with Hermie on several occasions, including foreign trips to study how other sugar-producing countries, which we babysitted on their infant years, overtook us. I've been with Dino on numerous sugar industry events, particularly in the battle against HFCS and the boycott against Coke products.

Both are sincere and capable of leading SRA. The appointment of either is welcome to the industry.

While Hermie might not be as politically experienced as Dino, Hermie's heart definitely beats in tune with the pulse of the industry. On the other hand, Dino's political savvy, immersion into and demonstrated passion for the industry might be just what the doctor ordered.

As sugar industry stakeholders weighed the choice of SRA chief between Hermie and Dino, the weekend's calm was shattered when, yesterday, Pres. Digong threw a monkey wrench into those ruminations by announcing that he wants to abolish SRA!

Pres Digong, it is no secret that I support you and your administration. But I beg to disagree on this score.

"For more than 30 years, SRA has proven itself as a government agency which protects the interests of consumers and promotes the welfare of sugar producers," said NFSP president Enrique D. Rojas.

Organized in 1930, NFSP (National Federation of Sugarcane Planters) is the mother of all sugar industry organizations, except that of the sugar millers' group, like the Philippine Sugar Millers Association, Philippine Association of Sugar Refiners and Association of Independent Millers (whose very influential member you often read about in advertisements in local daily papers).

Whatever!

"If the President is not satisfied with the performance of the immediate past administrator, it is not the fault of the entire agency. We suggest that, 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," said Nene Rojas, the NFSP president who has been consistently vocal in industry concerns.

I agree with him when he said that there are many sincere and capable persons within the sugar industry who can lead SRA. Perhaps a change in leadership can address the President's apprehensions.

"We hope that the President will reconsider his statement and allow SRA to continue, particularly now that the sugar industry is facing a multitude of problems," he added.

Yes, the alleged fault of a single person should not besmirch the agency which has helped the industry so much over the past three decades.

Palihog, don't abolish SRA, Pres. Digong! Unless you have something better in mind?

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