Senator Cynthia Villar yesterday denied that the sugar industry will only be given temporary reprieve before import liberalization is imposed on it, stressing that no final decision has been made yet.
She does not believe the sugar industry will suffer the same fate as the rice industry, Villar said.
Negros Occidental Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson last week urged sugar industry stakeholders to remain vigilant, as the Senate resolution urging the executive department to halt its planned liberalization of the sugar industry may only be temporary reprieve.
“I understand that because of the support of the Senate, the sugar import liberalization will not push through, but we have to be vigilant because I understand we may have only been given a seven to one year grace period,” he said.
When asked for her reaction Villar, who was guest speaker at the 14th Negros Island Organic Farmers Festival at the provincial Capitol grounds in Bacolod City yesterday, told reporters, you are more advanced than the decision makers.
Unlike the country’s rice industry that is bound by a World Trade Organization agreement on import liberalization, the sugar industry is not, she said.
Villar, Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food chair, confirmed an earlier statement by Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri that the country’s economic managers were prepared to meet with sugar industry stakeholders opposing their proposal to liberalize sugar importation, to come up with an out-of-the-box solution.
“That’s their job, they will meet with the sugar industry stakeholders,” Villar said.
She said the reason sugar import liberalization was proposed by the country’s economic managers was because food processors complained of the high sugar prices.
It is the fault of the Sugar Regulatory Administration because they gave the right to import sugar to the traders and not the food processors, she said.
The problem is the SRA is supposed to protect the sugar industry, so why should it give the importation to the traders whose cartel drive up sugar prices, she said.
If the food processors or the institutionalized consumers of sugar complain, government is forced to allow importation, she said.
Villar also again blamed the SRA for the slow utilization of the Sugar Industry Development Act allotted funds to boost the competitiveness of the sugar industry.
The slow utilization has caused the Department of Budget and Management to cut the P2 billion due the sugar industry annually to only P500 million this year, she said.
On some industry stakeholders call for SRA Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica to resign, Villar said “no one in the Philippines quits unless fired.”*
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