Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. yesterday vowed to provide more development programs to benefit the poor in Negros Occidental in 2018, while Vice Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson stressed the need to be solutions-directed in the new year.
Sugar leaders are hoping the hike in the excise tax on High Fructose Corn Syrup will improve the millgate prices of domestically produced sugar, while a labor leader is calling for another wage hike .
A business leader expects 2018 to be better than 2017 for the economy.
Marañon, in a speech after the first flag raising ceremony of the year at the Negros Occidental Multi-Purpose Activity Center yesterday, said among his priorities are to improve hospital operations, expand scholarship programs for students and children of provincial government employees and provide more livelihood opportunities for the poor.
Negros Occidental is one of the most progressive provinces in the country and more investments from countries like Japan and Australia are expected this year, he also said.
“Let us continue to pray and thank God for the countless blessings that He has been giving to our province and our families,” the governor said.
Lacson said the recent signing into law of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) bill implies both blessings and tests in 2018.
He pointed out that many people who earn P250,000 and below annually, will no longer be taxed for their incomes, so they will have larger take-home pay.
But the vice governor cautioned Negrenses to be prudent with the use of their increased take-home pays, as the increased taxes on key commodities like fuel and sweetened beverage products, among others are expected to also increase prices of these goods and their allied services and industries.
“It will also mean that, especially for those engaged in industries affected by these additional taxes, like our sugar industry, we must conserve and gather our energies together towards more solutions-directed endeavors,” he said.
The vice governor also stressed the need to remain prayerful, faithful and united in working for respect for human dignity in all ways, truth, justice, freedom from all forms of oppression, true peace, harmony, and the healing of the nation.
Enrique Rojas, president of the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters, said “With the higher excise tax on HFCS over domestic sugar, we hope that industrial users will opt for local sugar. When demand for local sugar rises, sugar prices normally also increase.”
He also said the close cooperation between the new Sugar Regulatory Administration Board and the Sugar Alliance of the Philippines bodes well for the industry.
“We are confident that our new SRA Board can effectively work with the Bureau of Customs and other concerned government agencies to strictly control the entry of HFCS in the country,” Rojas said.
HFCS remains to be the biggest culprit in the drop in sugar prices, he pointed out.
However, the excise tax on diesel fuel will push production cost up, he said.
“That's why we are hoping for the best, that 2018 will bring us better prices than the past year, to offset the increase in fuel cost and allow our thousands of marginal farmers to earn a decent living for their families,” Rojas added.
Manuel Lamata, United Sugar Producers' Federation of the Philippines president, also said that the implementation of the excise tax on HFCS would mean no more imports so, hopefully, the sugar prices will rebound.
But Wennie Sancho, of the General Alliance of Workers Association, said he expects 2018 to be another year of struggle for the Filipino workers.
The exemption of the minimum wage earners from income tax will be offset by the impact of the excise tax on coal and fuel that will surely bring up the prices basic goods and services, he said.
“In order to protect the erosion of their purchasing power, the workers will demand another wage hike in the first quarter of 2018,” he said.
“The labor sector, particularly GAWA, assumes the position of guarded optimism due to the mixed signals being sent by the government that is filled with contradictions, especially on the call for an end to illegal labor contractualization and the stalled peace talk with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army,” Sancho added.
Frank Carbon, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Western Visayas regional governor and Metro Bacolod Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive officer, said “2018 will be a lot better compared to 2017, if the political leaders in Negros Occidental continue working closely with the business sector.”
He stressed the need for development projects in rural agricultural areas to ensure balanced development.*CPG
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