Members of the Save the Sugar Industry Movement will have to skip the House inquiry today on a resolution opposing the planned sugar import liberalization, its secretary-general, Wennie Sancho, said yesterday.
He said his group and the sugar workers were invited by the House Committee on Agriculture and Food to attend today’s hearing on House Resolution No. 412 that “expresses strong opposition to the planned liberalization or deregulation of sugar importation for the purpose of safeguarding the welfare of farmers and farm and mill workers across the country”.
However, he said the invitation does not include accommodation and that he and the workers could not afford to go there.
Sancho was supposed to submit their position paper to the committee.
“We’re a little dismayed that we can’t attend. The sugar import liberalization is a vital issue, the Congress should reach out to the workers and give them a voice there,” he said.
He said the voices of the workers should be heard as the proposed sugar import liberalization is detrimental to the industry and the laborers.
Among the reforms he proposed in the position paper is that the government should look into the plight of the sugar farm workers - make them regular employees, and not on contractual basis.
He added that, in order to increase the productivity of the sugar industry, there is a need to increase production as well as the salary of the workers.
He also said sugar workers should be given remuneration during the off-milling season so they can feed their families. The salaries of skilled workers, such as drivers and operators, should be higher than the minimum wage, he said.
He also said more funds should be allocated for mechanization to help the farmers.
The House resolution was introduced by 21 congressmen, including the seven solons from Negros Occidental: Francisco Benitez (3rd District), Juliet Ferrer (4th District), Leo Rafael Cueva (2nd District), Gerardo Valmayor Jr. (1st District), Genaro Alvarez Jr. (6th District), Ma. Lourdes Arroyo-Lesaca (5th District), and Stephen Paduano (Abang-Lingkod party-list).
The resolution was received in the House on October 2.*
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