Rep. Alfredo Abelardo Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3rd District) and Sugar Regulatory Administrator Ma. Regina Martin yesterday reiterated their call for sugarcane industry stakeholders to diversity their products and work at becoming efficient to survive beyond 2015 when tariffs on imported sugar drop to five percent.
The two spoke at a sugar forum organized by the UP Los Baños Alumni Association, headed by former Board Member Enrique Miguel Lacson, at the Planta Centro Hotel in Bacolod City.
In a speech read for him by Silay Vice Mayor Mark Golez, Benitez discussed measures being undertaken by Congress to meet the challenge of 2015.
The solon said House Bill 6113 or the Sugarcane Industry Development Act, which he authored, was conceptualized to respond to the fear of the industry of the 2015 scenario, and provide fuel for change.
Benitez said he is optimistic the bill will be passed into law before the end of the 15th Congress.
Reforms must be made now for the industry to survive beyond 2015, he stressed.
The Philippine sugar industry is clearly under siege and the Sugar Cane Act hopes to create competitiveness and growth in the industry by retooling it, Benitez said.
The mills must re-tool their operations to also produce alternatives such as bio-ethanol and biofuel that will increase the value of the sugarcane, he added.
He also said his bill mandates the establishment of Special Economic Zones or agro industrial districts for the sugarcane industry, and will incentivize farm efficiency through block farming.
A major highlight of his bill is the establishment of a Sugarcane Industry Development Fund to pave the way for transforming the sugar industry in to a multi-product industry, he added.
Martin, in her speech, said the estimated production of the country for this crop year is 2.356 million metric tons or an increase of five percent versus last year.
She stressed the need for sugarcane industry diversification, productivity improvement, mill efficiency and expansion of areas planted to sugarcane to meet the challenge of 2015.
Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. and Felixberto Monasterio, Sugarcane Master Plan Foundation Inc. executive director, also spoke at the forum.
Lacson said the speakers at the forum enlightened the stakeholders on what government is doing to prepare the industry for 2015 and what they can do to help effect change.*CPG