Albee:Serafica SRA chief; I can't confirm it, Piñol says

on Wednesday, September 20, 2017
By Carla Gomez

President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed Sugar Board planter representative Hermenegildo Serafica as the new Sugar Regulatory Administration chief, Rep. Alfredo Abelardo Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3 rd District) said yesterday.

However, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol last night told the DAILY STAR he could not confirm that Serafica was appointed as he did not have a copy of his appointment papers signed by the president yet.

Anna Rosario Paner earlier said she resigned as SRA chief, but Duterte said he fired her for hiring overpaid consultants.

Piñol had nominated Serafica, his original choice for SRA chief, to replace Paner.

Serafica of Ormoc City, Leyte, is a member of the United Sugar Producers' Federation of the Philippines, and was president of Leyte Cane Planters Association and vice chairman of the Philippine Sugar Research Institute.

Emilio “Dino” Yulo III, former Negros Occidental vice governor and Sugar Alliance of the Philippines spokesperson, had also been nominated for the top SRA post.

Yulo said yesterday “We welcome the appointment of a new SRA administrator since the milling season has started and amidst all the challenges we face, we hope this will be a fresh start for the SRA”.

He noted that the prices of sugar have not moved.

“We hope that this appointment will give anew boost to the sugar industry. We are more than willing to work with the new administrator as well as the Sugar Board”, Yulo said.

On Duterte's threat to abolish the SRA following his discovery of the high-priced salaries of SRA consultants, Yulo said, “The abolition of the SRA is up to the president, we must remember it was created by an executive order so it can always be abolished by way of an executive order.”

Yulo said he hopes the appointment of the new SRA administrator “is a sign that the president is seriously thinking about prolonging the life of the SRA.”

Yulo also said he hopes the new administrator will uphold and support Sugar Order No. 3 that regulates the entry of high fructose corn syrup into the country as a substitute for sugar.

HFCS has driven down the prices of domestic sugar, industry stakeholders have said.

“Sugar workers fear revocation of Sugar Order No. 3 with Serafica as SRA head,” Wennie Sancho of the Save the Sugar Industry Movement, said.

Save SIM will join the National Congress of Unions in the Sugar Industry of the Philippines if such action looms, he added.

Hernani Braza of NACUSIP also said they are worried Serafica might lift Sugar Order No. 3.

Meanwhile, Piñol's meeting with sugar industry stakeholders in Bacolod on September 29 will allow him to hear the concerns of the different stakeholders, Yulo said.

Piñol said he will meet with labor groups in the morning and the planters in the afternoon while in Bacolod on September 29.

He will also meet farmers and fisherfolk in Negros on September 28.

In Ilog, fiberglass fishing boats will be given to fisherfolk, while in Bago City farm implements will be distributed, he said.*CPG