Negros Occidental officials and sugar industry leaders yesterday lauded the unanimous approval by the Senate of a resolution urging the executive department to halt its planned liberalization of the sugar industry.
Senate Majority Floor Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, who said Senate Resolution 213 was unanimously supported by his colleagues, including those who were absent when it was passed, hopes the executive department will heed their call.
”It’s the sense of the Senate, hopefully the executive will abide by it but they are not bound by it,” Zubriri told the DAILY STAR.
Negros Occidental Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson called it a positive development but the challenge is to convince Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III not to push through with sugar liberalization.
Sugar Board Member Dino Yulo said the overwhelming support of the senators will hopefully allay fears of stakeholders against the proposed liberalization of the sugar industry.
“It will not only be suspended for six months to a year, but will never happen for as long as we have senators who continue to champion the plight of sugar producers and workers, including the millions of others who are dependent on this industry,” he said.
Yulo also said he is thankful that the Senate saw the importance of the Sugar Regulatory Administration as a vital agency that will look after the welfare of industry stakeholders and the consuming public.
Senators Zubiri and Cynthia Villar “were both instrumental in convincing the entire Senate body to see our plight and I extend my thanks to them as well as to the rest of the senators who signed the resolution”, Yulo said.
Tatak Kalamay also issued a statement yesterday thanking the senators for their overwhelming show of support for the sugar industry.
The group also cited Zubiri for spearheading the passage of Resolution 213 and Villar for her steadfast support.
Rep. Leo Rafael Cueva (Neg. Occ., 2nd district) said “We are happy that our Senators took a collective stance in support to the millions of farmers, mostly agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs), in at least 20 sugar-producing provinces of the country."
"We would like to thank our Senators for unanimously favoring Senate Resolution No. 213. They heeded our similar call in the lower house as contained in House Resolution No. 412," Rep. Greg Gasataya (Bacolod), vice chair of the House Committee on Appropriations, also said.
Sagay City Mayor Alfredo Marañon III and Cadiz Mayor Salvador Escalante said the Senate resolution gives sugar industry stakeholders some relief as they had been waiting for clear actions from the national leadership.
"Having been on the receiving end of complaints from many small farmers, the Senate action is a good sign. It provides hope and respite for those who depend on sugar," Marañon said.
Escalante urged industry stakeholders to continue to make known their collective position against sugar liberalization.
"So much still needs to be done to ensure that sugar, as a commodity, does not end up like our locally-grown palay, especially that 60 to 65 percent of sugar production comes from Negros. We certainly do not want to see a repeat of what happened to Negros in the 80s," Escalante said.
National Federation of Sugarcane Planters president Enrique Rojas, United Sugar Producers Federation of the Philippines president Manuel Lamata and Confederation of Sugar Producers Negros-Panay chapter president Nicolas Ledesma Jr. also thanked the senators for their support.
“We congratulate the senators for standing behind the sugar industry against liberalization,” Lamata said.
“Confed and the whole industry are thankful to our senators for unanimously voting against the planned sugar liberalization. Our pleas and especially that of the small farmers have been heeded,” Ledesma said.
“Our senators have seen what happened to rice farmers under the rice tariffication program, and they don't want the sugarcane farmers to suffer the same experience in the drop in prices,” Rojas said.
He said they hope that with the united stand of the senators, and congressmen, plus the resolutions passed by local government units of sugar-producing provinces, the administration will finally abandon the proposal for sugar deregulation.
Wennie Sancho, convenor of the Save the Sugar Industry Movement, said Senate Resolution 213 is a welcome development.
It has strengthened the spirit of solidarity of the workers in the sugar industry amid their vehement opposition against sugar import liberalization, he said.
The resolution should serve as a wake-up call for the country’s economic managers , Sancho said.*
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