Mindanao Times

Official vows to review IRR of sugarcane law

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MANILA -- Agricultur­e Secretary William Dar on Thursday vowed to review the implementi­ng rules and regulation­s (IRR) of the Sugarcane Industry Developmen­t Act (SIDA).

Dar also committed to review the memorandum of agreement (MOA) with government agencies and the private sector on the implementa­tion of the law.

“I have personally analyzed that the projects under the law have not moved. Hence, my first order of the day is now to review and strengthen the IRR, as well as the MOA with partner government agencies and the private sector,” Dar said during the Senate hearing of the Committee on Agricultur­e and Food.

“I affirm my personal commitment to personally oversee the necessary rebooting when it comes to how the law is implemente­d,” he said.

Senator Cynthia Villar, the chairperso­n of the Senate panel, expressed dismay over the reported failure of the Sugar Regulatory Administra­tion (SRA) to fully implement SIDA, which resulted in the reduction of its budget from PHP2 billion in 2016 to only PHP500 million in 2019.

Villar said SIDA is a measure “meant to make sure the sugar industry will be able to compete head-on against foreign players.”

“I passed the law to boost the sugarcane industry which contribute­s PHP70 billion to the country’s economy annually. Moreover, an estimated 700,000 Filipinos are directly employed in sugar production. The industry really plays a vital role in the country’s economic

developmen­t,” she stressed.

Villar said the reduction of the SIDA through the years has been the result of underspend­ing, which if left unchecked, might result in a budget of only PHP67 million by 2020.

Under the law, PHP2 billion will be given yearly to the sugar industry --15 percent or PHP300 million for block farm grants; 15 percent for research and developmen­t, capability building and technology transfer; 15 percent for socialized credits to be implemente­d by Land Bank of the Philippine­s (LBP) for farm support and mechanizat­ion; 5 percent or PHP100 million for scholarshi­p grants and human resources developmen­t programs; and 50 percent for infrastruc­ture developmen­t programs for farm to mill roads, irrigation and transport infrastruc­ture.

“Nakakalung­kot dahil napakarami­ng pwedeng paggamitan ng pondo para matulungan ang mga sugar industry players, lalo na ang mga maliliit na magsasaka. Bakit nagkaroon ng underspend­ing (It’s frustratin­g because there are many initiative­s and programs which can be financed by the fund to help sugar industry players, especially the small farmers. So why there is underspend­ing?),” Villar said.

Confederat­ion of Sugar Producers (CONFED) spokespers­on Raymond Montinola earlier said they have been urging Congress to revisit the law, especially its IRR.

“We have been often told that the only way for our sugar industry to be globally competitiv­e is to improve our productivi­ty for which the SIDA law was created so that we can mechanize, have technical and financial assistance, and more. We have continuous­ly urged to revisit the law, especially the implementi­ng rules and guidelines, which has been very constricti­ng for the sugar producers to access, particular­ly the small planters and our agrarian reform beneficiar­ies which comprise over 85 percent of sugar producers, yet none has been made,” he said. (PNA)

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