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Bacolod City, Philippines Tuesday, February 12, 2019
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DA: Duterte will listen
to sugar stakeholders


Agriculture Undersecretary Segredo Serrano yesterday said he is confident that President Rodrigo Duterte will listen to the concerns of the sugar industry stakeholders, over the attempt to completely deregulate the industry.

Serrano, who spoke in behalf of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol at the opening of the Sugarcane Stakeholders’ Summit in Quezon City, said Piñol will present the outputs of the sugar summit to the Cabinet, and to the President, who is aware of the plight of the sugar industry.

The summit opening was attended yesterday by different stakeholders of the sugar industry, including representatives from agrarian reform beneficiaries, sugar producers and millers, as well as different planters groups such as the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters led by Enrique Rojas, Confederation of Sugarcane Producers Associations in Negros and Panay Chapter, led by Nicolas Ledesma, and the United Sugar Producers Federation of the Philippines, among others.

The stand of the industry stakeholders to strongly oppose the sugar import liberalization as proposed by the country’s economic managers has the support of labor and farmers’ groups, 10 senators and several members of the House of Representatives, including Reps. Greg Gasataya (Bacolod) and Rep. Leo Rafael Cueva (Neg. Occ., 2nd District) and Rep. Stephen Paduano (Abang Lingkod).

The Visayan bloc, that is composed of more than 40 solons in the Visayas, is also expected to issue a statement on the proposed sugar import liberalization, Rep. Alfredo Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3rd District) said.

Serrano said that leaving the fight to SRA and DA will not work. “You have to be us, and we have to define our common grounds,” he also said, apparently referring to sugar stakeholders.

He also stressed the need to address other problems, such as the volatile markets, offer to sugar farmers to diversify to others crops that may not be sustainable, low production outputs and the entry of heavily subsidized sugar imports.

He also suggested to representatives of the sugar industry stakeholders that they talk to the President, or invite him to the next sugar industry event.

The Sugarcane Roadmap 2020 targets and SIDA accomplishments, globalization and liberalization of sugar were among the topics discussed yesterday during the first day of the summit, that was also attended by former SRA administrators Gina Bautista-Martin and Bernard Trebol.

SRA chief Hermenegildo Serafica said yesterday that insights and outputs to be collated from the sugar summit will address the pressing concerns confronted by the sugar industry.

Serrano said there is no problem with the liberalization of the sugar industry, but the deregulation.

He also blamed the reduction of Sugarcane Industry Development Act from P2 billion to P500 million this year, on many complex problems, such as procurement, requirements on socialized credits financing, as the SRA is also in the midst of a rationalization process, or transition period.

“We need private stakeholders, farmers, millers to help us in defining how to use the (SIDA) funds”, Serrano said.

“We must show them that we can spend all the P500 million allocation, in order to get back the P2 billion”, he added.

Serrano also noted the difficulties of small farmers in availing of loans from the Land Bank because of stringent requirements.

Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr., in an interview in Bacolod City, said he hopes the output of the summit will convince the country’s economic managers and the president not to liberalize the sugar industry.*


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