October 4, 2022

Sen. Francis Tolentino said he is eyeing a new and more effective system for the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) than abolishing it by amending Executive Order 18 and fully implementing Republic Act 10659 or the “Sugarcane Industry Development Act of 2015.”

“Perhaps, we should tighten some of the provisions that can lead to discretionary powers on several individuals coming from EO 18 itself,” Tolentino said in an interview.

EO 18 was issued by former President Corazon Aquino on May 28, 1986 that created the SRA to institute an orderly system in sugarcane production, to establish and maintain balanced relation between the production and requirement of sugar and its marketing conditions, to promote effective sugar merchandising, and to undertake relevant studies needed to formulate sugar policies and planning.

For instance, Tolentino explained it would be more practical if the powers of the SRA administrator be clipped and limited only to internal administration within the agency, and have a five-man board that genuinely functions as a collegial body in deciding sugar industry policies.

“The matter of reclassifying should really be based on market needs and decisions coming from the board based on real consultations,” he said.

Tolentino chairs the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee which is currently probing Sugar Order 4 (SO 4) which was supposed to allow the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar until it was canceled by the Office of the President.

Admitting that the raids of sugar warehouses should also be discussed, he clarified that the committee’s investigation is only focusing on the issues surrounding SO 4.

“I believe that is part of a series of events that really can be pursued by perhaps, the Committee on Agriculture. But it will open the doors that all of these boilerplates, documents from warehouse receipts, releases of imported sugar are part of what has been happening since decades ago,” he said.

Tolentino said if pursued, the committee will be inclined to deal with smugglers and erring Customs officials which will expand and lengthen the investigation. – PNA

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