Negros Occidental

Negros Occidental marks 105 years of its sugar industry, economic pillar

Erwin Delilan

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Negros Occidental marks 105 years of its sugar industry, economic pillar

SYMBOL. A carabao sundial, found in the Victorias Milling Company compound, symbolizes the sugar industry pillar of Negros Occidental.

courtesy of Ronnie Baldonado

The long story of Asia's largest sugar refinery isn’t all about sweetness – it had its share of bitter episodes, too

BACOLOD, Philippines – Officials of Negros Occidental, a province dubbed as the “Sugar Bowl of the Philippines,” overflowed with pride as they joined the over century-old Victorias Milling Company (VMC) in celebrating its anniversary on Tuesday night, May 7. 

VMC, Asia’s largest sugar refinery, stands as a pillar of the Negros Occidental’s local economy.

Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson, addressing the grand celebration at Nature’s Village Resort in Talisay City, expressed the provincial government’s deep gratitude for VMC, saying Negros Occidental’s story is inseparable from sugar and VMC. 

Lacson hailed 105-year-old VMC not only as an icon of excellence in producing export-quality sugar but also as a symbol of resilience of the province.

“The story of Negros Occidental cannot be told without sugar… without VMC,” he said.

From its humble beginnings with a raw capacity of 1,500 tons, VMC morphed into one of the world’s largest integrated raw and refined sugar operations. It also ventured into food, power, and fuel, among others.

Despite challenges, including financial difficulties in the mid-1990s and a corruption scandal involving former executives in the early 2000s, VMC has persevered.

VMC’s long story isn’t all about sweetness – it had its share of bitter episodes, too.

Nestled in the heart of Victorias, dubbed as the “Sweet Green City,” just 34 kilometers north of Bacolod, the sugar refinery had its share of challenges, some of which have been openly acknowledged.

In the mid-90s, under the leadership of Miguel Osorio, the refinery encountered financial turbulence. It was at the turn of the millennium, however, that marked VMC’s most serious stumble when a group of executives, referred to as the “Magnificent 7,” became embroiled in a corruption scandal, plunging the firm into financial turmoil.

Tobacco and airline magnate Lucio Tan’s intervention in 2004 rescued VMC from its financial woes, enabling it to overcome both financial and labor issues. Two decades later, VMC continues to lead, boasting around P1.57 billion in earnings as of its August 2023 financial disclosure.

Victorias City Mayor Javier Miguel Benitez called VMC as the lifeblood of his city, and a part of its culture characterized by sustainability and resilience.

VMC President Linley Retirado said the company was committed to embracing change and innovation to meet new challenges in a modern world. 

Despite the complexities, he said VMC remains dedicated to its legacy of producing quality sugar for Negros and the world.

“As we enter the new chapter of the company’s history, we can carry forward the lessons we learned from the past to stay strong and embrace change,” Retirado said.

He said new technologies, as well as customers’ preferences, are among the new set challenges that VMC needs to hurdle.

Sugar Regulatory Administrator Paul Azcona commended VMC for its enduring success, hailing it as the best and largest sugar refinery in Asia. 

“It’s a milestone, which is hard to beat,” Azcona said. –

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