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Bacolod City, Philippines Sunday, March 18, 2018
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Albee seeking P3.6B
for sugarcane industry


Rep. Alfredo Abelardo “Albee” Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3 rd District) yesterday said he will lobby for the allocation ofP3.6 billionin 2019 to further boost the competitiveness of the sugarcane industry.

Under the Sugarcane Industry Development Act, which he authored in the Lower House, P2 billion should be allocated by the Department of Budget and Management annually for the industry, he pointed out.

However, Benitez said that, because of under-spending the Department of Budget and Management in the last two years reduced the amount due the industry, that is why he is seeking the restoration of the withheld amount of P1.6 billion in addition to the P2 billion for next year.

Benitez and Senator Cynthia Villar, an author of the SIDA counterpart measure in the Senate, were at the Sugar Regulatory Administration compound in Bacolod City yesterday for the launching of the SIDA Socialized Credit Program.

SRA Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica said P600 million is available for loans under the Socialized Credit Program from the 2016 and 2017 SIDA fund.

Sugarcane farmers or cooperatives can avail of P50,000in loans per hectare at an annual interest of 2 percent, Villar said.

Farmers should avail of these loans because the interest rate is low, she said, adding that they can group together to avail of loans to mechanize.

Application for loans should be made through the mill district development officers, Serafica said.

Serafica said that because of under-spending of the SIDA fund in previous years, only P1 billion was allocated by the DBM for the industry in 2018.

Of the P1 billion, Serafica said P750 million will be allocated for farm-to-mill roads and P300 million for block farming, he said, of which 62 percent of the entire amount will go to Negros. The fund allocation is based on an area’s production capacity, he said.

Serafica said the SRA has already submitted all the paperwork for the 2018 infrastructure projects. He expects the implementation of the P750 million in projects in the third quarter of this year, Serafica added.

We have to prove to everyone, including the DBM and the lawmakers, that the entire P1 billion can be spent this year so that the P2 billion due the industry annually under the law will be allocated in 2019, Serafica added.

Don’t commit the mistake of under-spending because the DBM will give a lower allocation for the industry the following year, Villar said.

Benitez said the SIDA is the first government program that allocates a specific fund to address sugarcane industry needs.

The bureaucratic process in the allocation of funds had hampered the SRA’s capacity to fast tract the spending of the SIDA funds in previous years, Benitez said.

The biggest problem was that funds were downloaded to the SRA but the implementing agency for the infrastructure projects was the Department of Public Works and Highways, he said. The documentation for the transfer of the funds from SRA to DPWH delayed projects, he added.

“Let us make sure the SIDA law is effectively implemented for the benefit of all,” Benitez said.

Benitez said the sugarcane industry has the potential to diversify into producing other by-products and still has a bright future.*CPG


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