Lawmaker seeks to abolish Sugar Regulatory Administration after import mess

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 26 2022 06:51 PM

A vendor sells sugar at the Bustillos market in Manila on August 16, 2022. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
A vendor sells sugar at the Bustillos market in Manila on August 16, 2022. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — A lawmaker has filed a bill seeking to abolish the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) following its alleged illegal go signal for sugar imports. 

Manila 6th District Rep. Bienvenido Abante filed House Bill 5081, which also seeks to transfer the SRA's powers and functions to the Department of Agriculture.

"The powers and functions of exercised by the SRA shall be transferred to the Department of Agriculture (DA). For this purpose, all records and documents relating to the regulation of the sugar industry shall be transferred to the DA," the bill reads.

If signed into law, SRA officials and employees could be absorbed by the DA "on the basis of merit and fitness."

In his explanatory note, Abante cited the failure of the SRA to decisively address the issues hounding the sector.

"This price level is a huge burden to the budget of ordinary households, particularly now that our country is still reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic," Abante said.

"Amidst this looming food crisis triggered by a problematic sugar industry, the SRA has not helped find any solution. In fact, the SRA is the problem," he added. 

The lawmaker noted a 1996 law eliminated quantitative restrictions on importation of agricultural products like sugar and replaced them with more transparent import tariffs. 

However, importation "remained tightly controlled by the SRA, endowed with regulatory powers by Executive Order No. 18, and reinforced under the Sugar Industry Act of 2015," Abante said. 

He also noted that even with the SRA's regulations, domestic sugarcane production has "not achieved higher productivity," and the industry has not become more competitive.

High sugar prices also "undermine" the competitiveness of food and beverage manufacturers, Abante said.

"Thus, it would be better to abolish the agency now and transfer its powers, functions and budget to the Department of Agriculture," he argued.

The SRA in August approved the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar as the price of the sweetener hit around P70 in some wet markets.

But Malacañang later said the import plan was "illegal" and lacked the approval of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who also heads the agriculture department. 

The controversy prompted the resignation of several officials, including then SRA administrator Herminigildo Serafica, and spawned legislative inquiries. 


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