Senate Majority Floor Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri yesterday said he will appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte to prevent the import liberalization of sugar.
Sugar Board Member Emilio “Dino” Yulo III said yesterday that the industry stakeholders are also bringing their appeal to the president and Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol.
“We have to make our voices heard, we have to take this fight to another domain in Metro Manila where the policy makers are,” Yulo said at a press conference in Bacolod City.
Industry stakeholders and Negros Occidental officials have warned that Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno’s proposed import liberalization plan will spell the demise of the Philippine sugar industry, at the expense of 5 million stakeholders.
Zubiri told the DAILY STAR he fully supports the industry position against the import liberalization of sugar and will join the lobby against it.
“As I’ve said many, many times, the sugar industry has about one million families who directly or indirectly benefit from local sugar production and we should not sacrifice them for the sake of liberalization. What would surely happen if we kill the industry is that these areas from Cagayan Valley to Davao del Sur will become extreme hot beds for the insurgency due to the loss of jobs and livelihood. We cannot allow that to happen,” Zubiri said.
Rep. Alfredo Abelardo Benitez (Neg. Occ.,3rd District) yesterday also said he supports the industry stand against sugar import liberalization.
If the country’s economic planners pursue import liberalization, let’s insist that they fully fund the Sugar Industry Development Act that requires an annual allocation of P2 billion to help boost the competitiveness of local farmers, Benitez said.
Benitez noted that the annual allocation for the SIDA has been far less than P2 billion.
Yulo said sugar industry stakeholders are opposing the import liberalization proposal of Diokno because unabated open importation would result in the death of the sugar industry.
The sugar industry is also the lifeblood of Negros Occidental, he pointed out.
He said their battle cry is “Hunger Never Again: No to Liberalization of the Sugar Industry”.
Yulo pointed out that in the 1980s when sugar prices went down to precarious levels, it not only affected the socio political situation in Negros Occidental, it also fomented social unrest.
It is incumbent upon the sugar stakeholders right now to have a long term plan on efficiency to be competitive, Yulo said, but “now is not the time to liberalize.”
It will take a number of years before the system is in place and the industry becomes competitive, Yulo said.
The first who will be affected by liberalization, which will allow big business to import sugar anytime, will be the small sugar planters, especially the agrarian reform beneficiaries, he said.
The Philippine Food Exporters are pushing for sugar import liberalization to protect their 40,000 employees, but what about the 5 million stakeholders in the sugar industry? Yulo asked.
Government should at least hear out the sugar industry before making any serious policy statement, he said.
He said when Diokno announced the proposed sugar import liberalization plan last week, millgate prices of 50 lkg bags of sugar dropped by about P100.
Yulo said he expects to meet with Piñol during the Sugar Board meeting on Wednesday next week where he will air the opposition of the sugar industry to the proposed import liberalization.
He thanked the provincial government officials for supporting the industry lobby against import liberalization, as a collapse of sugar prices will also affect peace and order in the towns and cities.*
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