The Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Negros Occidental yesterday approved a resolution requesting Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. to create a technical working group, that will formulate the magna carta aimed at protecting the sugar industry.
Under the ASEAN Free Trade Area agreement, the Philippines will be faced with entry of cheaper imported sugar, much of it highly subsidized by their governments, at a zero-free tariff in 2015. At present, there is a 35 percent tariff on imported sugar.
Before the implementation of AFTA in 2015, Board Member Miller Serondo, chairperson of the SP committee on Agriculture, who authored the resolution, said the government should have established enough protection for the sugar industry.
Sixty percent of sugar production is in Negros.
While some laws have already been enacted to protect the sugar industry, Serondo said their implementation has been distributed to many government agencies, and that the Sugar Regulatory Administration was created only through an Executive Order.
Serondo said he is leaving to Marañon whom he will select as members of the technical working group that will draft the magna carta for the sugar industry, copies of which will be forwarded to the House of Representatives and the Philippine Senate for sponsorship.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala had earlier rallied sugar industry stakeholders to “get their acts together” and plan how to address the challenges the industry will face when imported sugar enters the domestic market at zero tariff in 2015.
This was echoed by Marañon, who said the industry should capitalize on good sugar prices to modernize and plan how to bring down production costs so they can be competitive with other sugar- producing countries in the region.
“While we still have the resources, let us work on these challenges,” Marañon said.*GPB