About 200 sugar industry leaders from the 28 sugar producing provinces of the Philippines, including Negros Occidental and Oriental, are joining the two-day Sugarcane Stakeholders’ Summit that kicks off today at the Department of Agriculture compound in Quezon City.
Sugar Regulatory Administrator Hermenegildo Serfica said yesterday the summit will put forward a strong industry opposition to the planned policy shift toward liberalization by the country’s economic managers.
A sugarcane industry road map for the next five years will also be drafted at the summit.
Rep. Alfredo Abelardo Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3rd District) said he is also organizing the Visayan bloc in the Lower House to issue a statement this week on the proposed sugar import liberalization.
Stakeholders have warned that the proposed import liberalization will kill the Philippine sugar industry.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, Serafica and Sugar Board Members Roland Beltran and Emilio “Dino” Yulo will deliver the opening remarks at the summit this morning.
Nicolas Ledesma Jr., president of the Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations-Negros Panay chapter, said “With the sugar summitand the presentations of the stakeholders, we hope the economic managers will heed the industry’s call to stop the plan for liberalization and strengthen the sugar industry for better productivity, especially for the small planters and agrarian reform beneficiaries.”
Manuel Lamata, United Sugar Producers' Federation of the Philippines president, said “We are grateful to Secretary Piñol for initiating this forum.”
Enrique Rojas, president of the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters, said “We need to make government understand that the producers are not to blame for the high retail prices of sugar. It is the huge profits imposed by the traders, even when millgate prices are low, that cause the consumers to suffer high sugar prices. Government should look into this.”
He said the industry is exploring ways to assure industrial users that it can supply their requirements, at a mutually beneficial pricing scheme, so that they will patronize local sugar over imported sugar.
The NFSP is solidly behind the fight against sugar import liberalization, Rojas also said, during the federation’s national assembly at the NFSP main office in Bacolod City Friday.
NFSP passed a unanimous resolution urging government to abandon the proposal for sugar import liberalization and asserting the need for SRA to continue its mandate of regulating sugar supply.
“We will transmit a copy of the resolution to the Department of Agriculture and the SRA during the summit,” Rojas said.
Serafica and Yulo were also at the assembly attended by presidents and key officers of NFSP-affiliated associations and cooperatives from all over the country.
The SRA administrator urged the NFSP officials to join the sugar summit today to contribute to the crafting of the five-year road map for the industry.
“We fought and won the battle against the unregulated importation of high fructose corn syrup and against Administrative Order No. 13, which removed non-tariff barriers to importation. Now we are in another battle,” Serafica said.
Even with the Senate resolution expressing support of the ten senators for the sugar industry, Yulo cautioned all sugar producers against being complacent in the fight against importation.
“The battle has just begun. We need to solidify and strengthen our ranks to ensure the survival of our industry against this latest threat,” he said.*
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