Serafica’s appointment as SRA chief could lead to revocation of SO3
The appointment of Hermenegildo Serafica as the new Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) chief could lead to the revocation of a sugar order that regulates the entry of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in the country.
Wennie Sancho of Save the Sugar Industry Movement and Hernane Braza of NACUSOP TUCP Negros expressed apprehension that Serafica might lift the Sugar Order No.3 (SO3) upon the order of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol.
“The new (SRA) administration may become a ‘puppet’ of the Department of Agriculture, which has been tagged of favoring multinational softdrink manufacturers,” the groups said in a joint statement. “Tao kasi ‘yan ni Piñol.”
To recall, Piñol locked horns with sugar barons of Negros Occidental after the former allegedly lobbied in favor of Coca Cola FEMSA Philippines and Pepsi Cola to allow the entry of high fructose corn syrup in the country.
Piñol had proposed to retract SO3 because big businesses were not included in the consultation process.
“There is a problem with Sugar Order No.3 of SRA because it will regulate the importation of HFCS,” Piñol earlier told reporters. “Now, Coca Cola at Pepsi Co. are appealing to me because they were not properly consulted.”
“They came to me. My recommendation to President [Rodrigo Duterte] is for him to authorize me to hold in abeyance S.O. 3, pending proper consultations with the stakeholders,” the DA chief added.
Piñol even accused the “rich and spoiled brat” hacienderos of Negros Occidental, who has ties with former President Benigno Aquino, for masterminding the public demonstration staged against him for siding with the softdrink manufacturers.
In her speech in Bacolod on Monday, SRA Administrator Ana Rosario Paner admitted that there is massive pressure from other high-ranking officials of the government to allow the multinational companies to import the HFCS from China.
“The challenges during my administration became apparent during the height of the HFCS issue. I was determined to do something over the rampant importation of HFCS,” Paner said.
“I fought HFCS importation with everything I’ve got to the point of displeasing the Department of Agriculture (DA), our mother agency, the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) and the DOF (Department of Finance). I cannot describe to you the kind of pressure hurled at me to allow the importation of HFCS. But I took a hard position against HFCS, which I am obviously paying for now,” she added.
Meanwhile, Piñol said that his recommendation for Serafica as new SRA chief will stay despite reports that the latter was involved in the hiring of “overpaid” consultant.
“That’s a presidential prerogative. It was the president who said it was exorbitant, who am I to question that,” he said.
“We have already recommended and we have not withdrawn our recommendation. I will not withdraw, the endorsement stands,” he said, adding that Finance Secretary Carlos Domiguez and Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri has also endorsed Serafica.