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Bacolod City, Philippines Tuesday, January 29, 2019
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Import liberalization slammed


Hundreds of protestors led by Bayan-Negros and the National Federation of Sugar Workers gathered in front of the Fountain of Justice in Bacolod City yesterday to oppose the liberalization of sugar importation,which they said is no guarantee that retail prices will go down.

The protestors carried placards and a black coffin with markings that said: “Scrap Administrative Order No. 13.”

John Lozande, NFSW secretary general, said they condemn the recent pronouncement of Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno that sugar will be the next item to be deregulated and liberalized under the Duterte government after rice.

Diokno’s scheme is laying the ground for the total implementation of neo-liberal economic policies in the country, Lozande said.

The plan to deregulate and liberalize sugar importation is the “height of stupidity” unleashed by supposedly bright economic democrats of the Duterte government to allegedly “manage the rising prices of commodity,” Lozande said.

It does not take into consideration that the high price of sugar had been the workings of avaricious and unscrupulous traders who control its price and supply in the retail market, he added.

The only stakeholders who would benefit from the idea of Diokno are the greedy traders who are the ones who should be investigated by the government for their manipulative schemes that are the reason why retail prices of sugar remain at P50 to P60 per kilo, Lozande said.

That translates to P2,500 to P3,000 per 50 lkg of sugar, despite the mill gate price of only P1,500 per lkg, Lozande said.

The government should investigate the big sugar traders and millers in the country out of the 128 registered ones, he said adding that it should insteadcome up with a real land reform program.

Lozande said deregulation and liberalization of sugar importation will kill the sugar industry that sustains about 780,000 sugar workers and small sugar farmers and their more than 5 million dependents

This will not guarantee that prices of commodities will go down, he said citing, the deregulation of oil prices in 1996 to1997 where prices of gasoline rose from P15 to P20 per liter to about P48 to P50 per liter.

Only domestic and international traders will benefit from this policy of the Duterte administration, Lozande said.

The implementation of the policy will only heighten the level of conflict in the sugar industry, especially in Negros Island, which is considered a hotbed of insurgency, and worsen the peace and order situation in the province, he said.

Lozande said that based on his promises, Duterte deserves a rating of 2 percent on a scale of 1 to 10 since he has not fulfilled any of them and also because he is the only president who has no program for land reform.

They plan to hold a round table discussion with other groups so they can stage bigger protests until Diokno withdraws his pronouncement, Lozande said.*


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