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BIZ BUZZ: Trouble at the SRA

/ 04:01 AM August 04, 2021

Insiders know that there has long been a brewing rift among members of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) board, but it may have recently reached its tipping point.

Biz Buzz learned that SRA board members Roland Beltran and Emilio Yulo had filed a legal complaint with the Civil Service Commission (CSC) against their board chief and SRA administrator Hermenegildo Serafica for allegedly taking part in “the grand conspiracy” of falsifying public documents, usurpation of authority, and grave misconduct.

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The legal action undertaken by Beltran and Yulo was not surprising. Last year, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri raised concerns over recent appointments at SRA that were formalized in separate documents that were allegedly falsified, as these contained Agriculture Secretary William Dar’s signature even if he did not actually sign them.

Five employees of the SRA that benefitted from the appointments were also named respondents, including several John Does and Jane Does.

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In the complaint, Beltran and Yulo detailed the allegedly illegal appointment process, providing screenshots of documents and signatures that they said were falsified.

These include documents showing that there have been consultations or meetings regarding the appointment despite the lack of quorum.

They added that Serafica’s executive assistant, Jennifer Artates—called the “super administrator”—has a common design with her boss “because of the enormous power that she wields to the detriment of the service.”

Serafica, for his part, said in an earlier Senate hearing that the appointments went through the right process, and that “if there are flaws, the CSC will be the best body to comment on these issues.”

We do hope the CSC settles this dispute soon. This should be the least of the industry’s problems, don’t you think?

—Karl R. Ocampo

Reassurance redux

As Metro Manila and its environs prepare to enter another two-week hard lockdown on Friday, the country’s largest conglomerate finds itself once more in familiar territory of assuring the public of uninterrupted supply of food, fuel and power.

On Tuesday, San Miguel Corp. president Ramon Ang issued a staterment reminiscent of the ones he made at the start of the pandemic last year in an effort to allay fears of people that essential commodities would run out due to either panic buying or production and logistical disruptions.

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Having already spent over P14 billion to help combat the COVID-19 health crisis and cushion its effects on the public, Ang said the conglomerate was prepared to do more, and will also provide assistance to disadvantaged communities around Metro Manila.

“I would like to personally assure everyone that we have enough food inventory to last even many months,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of learning from last year and we adjusted the way we operate. We are better prepared for sudden disruptions.”

More importantly, he said San Miguel now has more robust business continuity plans that will allow for essential, critical operations to continue under strict safety protocols.

“This assures our government and the public that for our part, we can continuously provide food, power and fuel during this critical time,” he said, adding that most San Miguel facilities around the country will experience minimal disruption in their delivery of essential food, electricity and fuel supplies.

“There is nothing to worry as far as supply is concerned. For now, please prepare to stay at home, protect yourselves and your loved ones,” he said. “Even if you are all vaccinated, please exercise greater caution as the Delta variant is more transmissible.”

Speaking of which, the conglomerate said it intends to inoculate over 35,000 of its employees and extended workforce with COVID-19 vaccines over the next five weeks, as the company fast-tracks its “Ligtas Lahat” vaccination program following the delivery of the first tranche of AstraZeneca vaccines secured by the company last year.

Ang said an initial 26,700 doses were already being delivered to various provinces where it operates, with vaccination of Metro Manila-based employees having commenced last month. San Miguel has also accelerated its vaccination campaign in Isabela, Pangasinan, Pampanga, Laguna, Bataan, Cavite, Batangas, Cebu, Iloilo, Bacolod, Davao and Cagayan de Oro this month.

“We are in a race against time to have all of our 70,000 employees fully vaccinated and I firmly believe that we are on track to achieve micro herd immunity in our offices and facilities nationwide in a few months,” he said. “Our goal is to work quickly, efficiently, and safely to have everyone completely vaccinated and protected against COVID-19, and the emerging Delta variant, which is more transmissible according to our health experts.”

Perhaps government could learn a thing or two about efficient ways of combating the pandemic from private sector players like San Miguel and Ang. One could dream.

—Daxim L. Lucas INQ
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