Bacolod Rep. Greg Gasataya Wednesday night called on his colleagues in the House of Representatives to make a stand against sugar import liberalization in behalf of the a grarian reform beneficiaries and the marginalized small farmers that make up almost 90 percent of the country’s sugar producers.
He appealed to members of the House to ensure that “this new face of the industry” will have enough to send their children to school and that their families will never go hungry again.
Instead of delivering his privilege speech, Gasataya made a manifestation on the floor Wednesday night for its inclusion as part of the session notes.
Rep. Leo Rafael Cueva (Neg. Occ., 2nd District) yesterday also said he supports the industry leaders call not to allow sugar import liberalization because of its negative effect on the sugar industry.
“It is also in conflict with the thrust of government on food security,” he said.
Gasataya said that Negros Occidental, along with 20 other sugar provinces in the country, once again is faced with a threat that could seriously plunge the province back to the 80s when hunger was widespread, criminality was on the rise, and farmers and people in the countryside needed no urging to join the insurgency movement.
He pointed out that just over three decades ago, Joel Abong became the symbol of Batang Negros when he died just two weeks into confinement because of severe malnutrition, amid a sugar crisis.
“That seems to be in the offing once again with the impending threat from our economic managers that they will push for liberalization of sugar importation, knowing full well that it can spell the death of an industry,” he said.
He is making his appeal to save the industry in behalf of the more than 200,000 workforce in Negros alone that is directly involved in the industry, the 72,000 small farmers and ARBs, and the more than 5 million indirect stakeholders of the sugar industry who will be the first to fall, if the unregulated importation of sugar is not addressed, Gasataya said.
He also submitted a manifesto signed by 172 leaders of agrarian reform beneficiaries and cooperatives in Negros that have a membership of over 250,000 small farmers opposing import liberalization.
“It is ironic that we in government, through the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, gave these ARBs a chance to own and farm their lots to feed their families, yet, we will also be the ones to pull the rug from under them if we push through with the liberalization of sugar importation,” he said.
“We cannot afford to relive that time when thousands of lives were lost to hunger. We cannot afford to bear the brunt of another spike in the insurgency. We cannot afford to live under a cloak of fear when people lose hope in life and lose faith in humanity,” he said.
Gone are the days when the so-called hacienderos lorded it over the sugar industry, or when planters owned land as far as the eyes can see, he said.
The other Negros solons sought by the DAILY STAR for their stands on the proposed sugar import liberalization did not reply.*
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