By 1921, there were only 26 of these sugar mills in operations throughout the country. One of these modern mills was the Pampanga Sugar Mills, the first in the province--established only in 1919 at Del Carmen, Floridablanca.
As early as 1917, American investors realized that advantages of having a sugar mill right in Pampanga. Before that, sugar had to be transported by railroad to Calamba, a good 120 kilometers away, where it was milled at the Calamba Sugar Central. Sugar deteriorates after the cane is cut, so the long haul to Laguna often meant diminished value for the product, which often is aggravated by poor railroad service.
Sugar investors from Hawaii, California and the Philippines pooled their funds to raise the capital, and in 1919, the new group incorporated under the name Pampanga Sugar Mills. The whole project was supported by Senate President Manuel L. Quezon, and a host of Americans led by John Switzer, the executive vice president of Pacific Commercial who secured and guaranteed milling contracts with Kapampangans.
The building of the Pampanga Sugar Mills by Honolulu Iron Works, went underway at Barrio Del Carmen in Floridablanca, under the supervision of American engineers and sugar expert R. Renton Hind, who also developed Hawaii’s sugar industry. Twenty five miles of railroad tracks were laid out to bring the harvest from the fields to the mills, and when finished, it was the largest plant of its kind in the Philippines with a rated capacity of 2,500 metric tons daily. In the first 2 years of operation, the central managed to double its output from 8,700 metric tons of raw sugar to 19,400 in 1921. In all, Pasumil cost $7 million dollars to build.
The Pampanga Sugar Mills became a force to reckon with, winning milling contracts from Pampanga and Tarlac planters. The Valdes family for instance, who built Barrio Valdes out of their extensive sugar farmlands, made use of the central’s services. Even Spanish and American planters—like the Todas, Arrastrias and Sellmans-- shifted to the American-owned PASUMIL because of its capacity to process large amounts of sugar cane in a manner most efficient. Even the Manila Railroad Company recognized the economic value of the mills, creating a 4 kilometer spur road to join the central to its mainstream tracks. In the 1950s, PASUMIL even had its own Manila office at the 2nd floor of the Chronicle Building at Aduana.
In April 1918, a second sugar mill, put up by Filipino investors and large-scale Kapampangan planters was built in San Fernando—the Pampanga Sugar Development Company (PASUDECO). As opposed to PASUMIL, it targetted smaller planters and offered them shares in the company, thus increasing their milling benefits. Backed solid by the government, PASUDECO started its operations in 1922 and it immediately attracted a large and loyal following among local planters.
Though PASUDECO today is more well known than PASUMIL, its place in Pampanga’s economic history cannot be denied. As the pioneer sugar mill in Pampanga, it set into motion the fast modernization of the province’s sugar industry. It provided the impetus for more technological breakthroughs to be introduced—like the use of tractors. Agricultural associations were also formed by landowners and planters to act as lobby groups. PASUMIL, at its peak, surpassed milling operations in other parts of the country, helping established Pampanga’s reputation as Luzon’s Sugar Queen, second only to Negros Occidental.