‘Do not be dumb, ful­fill your prom­ise,’ la­bor urges Ne­grense law­mak­ers, Piñol

Sun Star Bacolod - - Front Page - BY ER­WIN P. NICAVERA

LA­BOR groups and unions in Ne­gros Oc­ci­den­tal have called on con­gress­men in the prov­ince not to be dumb, in­stead come out and speak up, against the pro­posed lib­er­al­iza­tion of sugar im­por­ta­tion in the coun­try.

They also urged Agri­cul­ture Sec­re­tary Em­manuel Piñol to ful­fill his prom­ise to pro­tect the sugar in­dus­try by, also, sup­port­ing the stake­hold­ers es­pe­cially small farm work­ers in their bat­tle against the “deadly” pol­icy.

Her­nane Braza, na­tional pres­i­dent of the Philip­pine Agri­cul­tural Com­mer­cial and In­dus­trial Work­ers Union-trade Union Congress of the Philip­pines (Paciwu-tucp), said there are sev­eral con­gress­men who have been help­ing lo­cal pro­duc­ers main­tain and pro­tect the prices of sugar.

But on the press­ing im­port lib­er­al­iza­tion is­sue, Braza said they only heard two con­gress­men from the prov­ince who are vo­cal

about their sup­port to the sugar in­dus­try.

“We are ap­peal­ing to other con­gress­men from the prov­ince to also re­in­force their fel­low rep­re­sen­ta­tives as well as sup­port the po­si­tion of the la­bor on non-im­por­ta­tion of sugar,” he said, adding that Ne­grense law­mak­ers should not let the prov­ince to slump as this is where they get their votes.

“They should al­ways re­mem­ber that,” the la­bor leader stressed.

Braza and Gen­eral Al­liance Work­ers (Gawa) sec re­tary gen­eral Wen­nie San­cho, who are both the la­bor rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Re­gional Tri­par­tite Wages and Pro­duc­tiv­ity (RTWPB) in West­ern Visayas, signed the “Karga-tapas” man­i­festo ex­press­ing the sugar work­ers’ op­po­si­tion against sugar im­port lib­er­al­iza­tion at Geo­cadin Build­ing in Ba­colod City yes­ter­day.

They were joined by 12 other lead­ers and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of other la­bor unions and groups, mostly of sugar milling com­pa­nies, as well as la­bor ad­vo­cates in the prov­ince.

For San­cho, the deaf­en­ing si­lence of most Ne­grense law­mak­ers dis­turbs the lo­cal la­bor sec­tor. “They should stand up and be counted in this try­ing times of the sugar in­dus­try.”

At the side­lines of the man­i­festo sign­ing, the two la­bor lead­ers re­called that the agri­cul­ture chief dur­ing the pre­vi­ous sum­mit of the Sugar Reg­u­la­tory Ad­min­is­tra­tion (SRA) in Ba­colod City has pledged to pro­tect the sugar in­dus­try.

Braza said Piñol has to come up with a strong state­ment sup­port­ing the la­bor sec­tor. Other­wise, if he does noth­ing to stop the sugar im­port lib­er­al­iza­tion, then he breached his prom­ise.

“The sugar in­dus­try was able to re­cover from the chal­lenges in­clud­ing the re­cent woes on high fruc­tose corn syrup, also be­cause of Sec­re­tary Piñol’s help,” he said, adding that “so, we will again ap­peal to him to be true to his words.”

More­over, the “Kar­gat­a­pas” man­i­festo stated that a huge fire­ball is about to de­scend from the sky and shall fall into the heart of the sug­ar­land. This firestorm is the pro­posal of the gov­ern­ment to lib­er­al­ize the im­por­ta­tion of sugar.

It said that it is un­for­tu­nate that the coun­try’s eco­nomic man­agers sought a quick-fix so­lu­tion to the sugar in­dus­try prob­lem with­out con­sid­er­ing the im­pli­ca­tions. It would be a fa­tal mis­take for the gov­ern­ment, in terms of pol­icy di­rec­tion and in the court of pub­lic opin­ion, to ap­prove the scheme at the ex­pense of eco­nomic well-be­ing of the peo­ple.

“In op­pos­ing the dereg­u­la­tion of sugar im­ports, even our small­est ac­tion would be of im­mense sig­nif­i­cance,” the work­ers’ man­i­festo said, adding that “we should never al­low this mon­ster called sugar im­port lib­er­al­iza­tion to breach and de­stroy the for­ti­fi­ca­tion of our sugar in­dus­try. ”

The la­bor groups, in the man­i­festo, fur­ther said “we should scrap the pro­posal to lib­er­al­ize sugar im­por­ta­tion. Eman­ci­pa­tion in times of great eco­nomic cri­sis usu­ally comes from those who had suf­fered most. We shall find the strength and mo­ti­va­tion to stop this dereg­u­la­tion which shall be a source of our suf­fer­ings and dis­con­tent­ment.”

The signed copies of the “Karga-tapas” man­i­festo will be fur­nished to SRA Chief Her­menig­ildo Ser­afica and Board Mem­bers Emilio Yulo III and Roland Bel­tran rep­re­sent­ing the planters and millers, re­spec­tively.

The la­bor groups hope that this “ex­pres­sion of op­po­si­tion” will be pre­sented by the SRA dur­ing the Sugar Sum­mit in Manila next week.

Congress of In­de­pen­dent Or­ga­ni­za­tions-na­tional Congress of Unions in the Sugar In­dus­try of the Philip­pines (Ciona­cusip) na­tional di­rec­tor Jun dela Cruz, who also signed the man­i­festo, said the price of P1,560 per 50kilo­gram bag of sugar dur­ing their re­cent bid­ding will surely drop once the im­port lib­er­al­iza­tion pushes through.

Dela Cruz said the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s eco­nomic man­agers could have con­ducted first di­a­logues with stake­hold­ers in Ne­gros Oc­ci­den­tal for them to know the ex­tent of pos­si­ble dam­age the mea­sure can bring to the farm­ers and work­ers.

Other groups and af­fil­i­ates who signed the man­i­festo in­cluded la­bor unions of Sa­gay Cen­tral Inc., Univer­sal Robina Corp., River­side Med­i­cal Cen­ter, South­ern Ne­gros De­vel­op­ment Corp., and Hawai­ian Philip­pine Com­pany, among oth­ers.

Most of them have ex­pressed ap­pre­hen­sions and fear that the pos­si­ble drop in prices of sugar due to open-mar­ket im­por­ta­tion will greatly hurt small sugar planters and work­ers as well as em­ploy­ees of cen­trals that are de­pen­dent on sugar pro­duc­tion.

Due to col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ments (CBAS), la­bor unions said they can no longer ne­go­ti­ate with the man­age­ment for “right” ben­e­fits if prices of sugar are low.

“Why should the gov­ern­ment im­port sugar where in fact we can­not fully uti­lize our own prod­ucts. This must be a mis­con­cep­tion by the gov­ern­ment,” Braza said.

More­over, cit­ing the state­ment of Na­tional Eco­nomic and De­vel­op­ment Author­ity (Neda) Sec­re­tary Ernesto Per­nia that sugar lib­er­al­iza­tion “is worth a try but a tough bat­tle,” the la­bor sec­tor be­lieved that the ca­su­al­ties in such bat­tle would be the work­ers.

This is the prob­lem. The col­lat­eral dam­age would be their fam­i­lies, San­cho said.

Amid claims that the pro­posed sugar im­port dereg­u­la­tion is a “col­le­gial de­ci­sion” and seemed to be a “done deal” al­ready, San­cho added they re­main op­ti­mistic that it won’t push through due to the ve­he­ment op­po­si­tion of the sugar in­dus­try work­ers.*

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