Sugar Regulatory Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica said he “will keep pushing for faster and more efficient implementation of Sugarcane Industry Development Act (SIDA) programs”.
The assurance was made in a hearing of the House Committee on Agriculture and Food, held through Zoom, yesterday, a press release from SRA said.
Issues on the implementation of the SIDA programs, which have resulted in the slow utilization of funds, and possible amendments to the SIDA law to strengthen the sugarcane industry, were discussed at the hearing.
Serafica said SIDA was signed into law in 2015 and the first fund release was August of 2016. “Admittedly, there have been significant implementing issues. These are part of the birthing pains which SRA did not expect but have since mitigated,” he added in the press release.
SRA presented its accomplishments and actions taken to mitigate the issues it has encountered in the implementation of SIDA programs.
Johnry Castillo of the Department of Budget and Management recognized the efforts of the SRA administration in mitigating the issues and affirmed that SRA is on the right track, the press release said.
Among the mitigations implemented by SRA are closer coordination with partner implementing agencies, multi-year memorandum of agreement with the Department of Public Works and Highways for infrastructure projects for GAA 2020 and coming years, and multi-year treatment of research projects due to the long gestation period of sugarcane research.
Serafica and Land Bank assistant vice president Edgardo Luzano also informed the committee that they have proposed to the Socialized Credit Program (SCP) committee the lowering of interest rate for common service provider, from 6.5 percent to just 3.5 percent, to cover administrative costs. They have also submitted to the SCP committee the proposal for the accreditation of planters’ associations as loan conduits to facilitate loans for their small farmer members.
Serafica, Philippine Sugar Millers Association representative Oscar Cortez, and Rene Cabati of the Philippine Association of Sugar Refineries requested the committee to give the SIDA law time to be fully realized as it has only been five years since it has been signed, the press release said.
The committee agreed to create a technical working group, to be chaired by Rep. Jose Francisco Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3rd District) to further study the issues on the SIDA implementation and how to strengthen the law.
Rep. Estrellita Suansing (Nueva Ecija) also clarified that the sugarcane industry should receive appropriations from the Sugar Sweetened Beverage (SSB) tax as mandated by law, and tasked the DBM to look into this, the press release added.*
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