• Sugar agency denies COA allegations on fund


    The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) has denied irregularity in the release of the P24.8-million antismuggling fund to the Sugar Masterplan Foundation Inc. (SMPFI), saying that the amount is part of private funds.

    “There’s nothing irregular on the release of the fund to SMPFI because the fund was voluntarily contributed by the sugar planters and millers, with the purpose of funding the activities of the SMPFI in apprehending the entry of smuggled sugar into the domestic market,” SRA Administrator Ma. Regina Bautista-Martin said on Friday.

    The Commission on Audit (COA) recently reported that from 2008 to 2012, the SRA released the amount to a nongovernment organization for antismuggling operations.

    Martin said sugar planters contributed the antismuggling fund after seeing that the government alone cannot prevent the entry of smuggled sugar into the country.

    She added that the only vehicle to invite more voluntary contributions from the stakeholders for the antismuggling efforts of the industry is through the SRA.

    “We are proud to say that SRA has earned the trust and confidence of the sugar industry stakeholders, which bonded us together in implementing relevant programs for the industry like the antismuggling initiative using the private sectors’ money,” she said.

    SRA has no police power and the only way to help the industry guard against the entry of illegal sugar is through the initiative of the private sector arm of the sugar industry. This initiative was implemented by SRA in partnership with the private sector to prepare the industry for the full integration under the Asean Economic Community (AEC) by 2015.

    Asean is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

    Martin reiterated that the SRA’s basic mandate is “to promote the growth and development of the sugar industry through greater and significant participation of the private sector,” thus, the use of the fund contributed by the private sector for the operations of the SMPFI for antismuggling was not illegal.

    The SRA chief also said that she understands that COA only sticks to its auditing rules and regulations, while SRA also sticks to its mandate under its charter.

    “Without the intimate partnership of SRA and the sugar industry stakeholders, the industry will not survive the ups and downs because no one else cares but us,” she lamented.

    In reaction to the COA report published in a national newspaper, the leaders of the sugar industry in the Visayas expressed support to the SRA, saying that the sugar industry has voluntarily lined themselves up to fight against the unabated smuggling of the sweetener in the country.

    “I am thanking COA that they have this figures. Now, we are demanding government to refund us, the private sector, for doing what is supposedly their job. We want this money back and we want COA to justify this amount,” said Manuel Lamata, president of the United Sugar Producers Federation of the Philippines.

    Enrique Rojas, president of the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters, said that the funds that SRA released were not government funds but private funds, which were voluntarily contributed by planters and millers to finance the industry’s antismuggling drive.

    “SRA was merely asked by the leaders of the sugar industry to collect the voluntary contribution of the planters and millers for the industry’s antismuggling program,” he added.


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