The Senate yesterday unanimously approved a resolution urging the executive department not to pursue the planned liberalization of the sugar industry to safeguard the welfare of farmers and industry workers in more than 20 provinces in the country, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said.
In Senate Resolution 213 the senators also urged the appropriate Senate Committee to conduct an investigation, in aid of legislation, into the impending liberalization.
They pointed out that the recent proposal of the country’s economic managers to grant the deregulation of sugar importation and to allow users of sugar to directly import has created a stir and fear among the stakeholders of the sugar industry.
The economic managers claim that the costly price of local sugar against that of the world market has affected the competitiveness of sugar- containing food products for export, the senators said.
However, liberalization of the sugar industry will not affect the competitiveness of sugar-containing products for export because it is already a policy of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) to allow food exporters to openly import sugar without value added tax or customs duties provided that their end-product is exported and not sold locally, the senators pointed out.
But they warned that the deregulated entry of subsidized sugar into the Philippine market will be disastrous to the country’s sugar industry , which contributes an estimated P95 billion to the Gross Domestic Product.
The senators also pointed out that the Sugar Industry Development Act of 2015 is barely four years into effect, and much of the programs and projects it envisions to implement for the development of sugar industry are not yet fully realized, thus any plan of liberalizing the sugar industry becomes irrelevant and very untimely.
The senators’ resolution also stressed that the SRA should be allowed to continue to regulate the supply of sugar.
Zuburi told the DAILY STAR he is grateful to his colleagues for unanimously passing Senate Resolution 213.
“When Tatak Kalamay first raised the issue a couple of months ago, I started rallying my colleagues in the Senate against the plan of the economic managers, knowing full well that pursuing such will greatly affect the lives and livelihood of some 84,000 farmers and more than 700,000 industry workers in over 20 provinces across the country,” he said.
The senators heard Tatak Kalamay’s plea, he said, adding that “for as long as we are in the Senate, we assure you of our support and protection and we also urge the economic managers to conduct proper consultation before announcing such plans”.
Announcing such plans alone has led to much anxiety as conveyed to him by Enrique Tayo, an agrarian reform beneficiary and member of Tatak Kalamay, who does not understand how government can afford to kill an industry that has given them some hope after they received their small parcels of land through agrarian reform, Zubiri added.
This proposal of the economic managers is actually contradicting the thrust of President Rodrigo Duterte towards food security and sustainable Philippine agriculture, he said.
Instead of the economic managers training their sights on liberalizing the sugar industry, Zubiri said he suggest that “they help us by ensuring the restoration of the full SIDA budget in order to make our industry competitive globally”.*
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