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‘Otso Diretso’ bets buck sugar in­dus­try lib­er­al­iza­tion; vol­un­teers ink man­i­festo push­ing for lo­cal dev't agenda

Sun Star Bacolod - - Front Page - BY TERESA D. ELLERA AND CARLA N. CAÑET

SUGAR in­dus­try stake­hold­ers have found an­other al­lies in their fight against the pro­posed sugar im­port lib­er­al­iza­tion.

This after some of the op­po­si­tion’s se­na­to­rial bets be­long­ing to “Otso Diretso” as­sured them of their sup­port and com­mit­ment to op­pose the mea­sure to dereg­u­late sugar im­po­ra­tion.

Some of “Otso Diretso” bets were in Ba­colod City yes­ter­day for a di­a­logue with var­i­ous sec­tor rep­re­sen­ta­tives at Time­out Res­tau­rant.

For­mer Que­zon Fourth Dis­trict Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Lorenzo “Erin” Tanada III said they are against the move of the govern­ment re­mov­ing re­stric­tions on en­try im­ported prod­ucts like rice and sugar.

“We will fight for the wel­fare of our sugar farm­ers. Such move to lib­er­al­ize the sugar in­dus­try would give more hard­ships to our ‘sakadas’ and their re­spec­tive fam­i­lies,” Tañada said, adding that “this is­sue is close to our hearts.”

Mag­dalo Party-list Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Gary Ale­jano, a Ne­grense, said he con­demns the pro­posed mea­sure as it will make the coun­try de­pen­dent on im­ported prod­ucts.

“We must rely in our prod­ucts es­pe­cially rice and sugar. This move of the govern­ment would only de­stroy our food se­cu­rity,” the con­gress­man said.

Ale­jano re­called the days of Batang Ne­gros where chil­dren were thin and hun­gry. He would not want Ne­grenses to ex­pe­ri­ence it again, he said.

If the sugar in­dus­try would be lib­er­al­ized, many fam­i­lies would lose jobs and lo­cal food se­cu­rity will suf­fer, Ale­jano added.

Well-known Ne­grense chef Mar­garita Fores, who rep­re­sented his cousin for­mer Se­na­tor Mar Roxas, echoed the lat­ter’s stand that im­por­ta­tion is not a so­lu­tion to the prob­lem on high prices of sugar and rice.

“Here in Ne­gros, our yield has al­ready in­creased by 20 per­cent in terms of rice and sugar pro­duc­tion be­cause of the new tech­nolo­gies and prac­tices. In­stead of im­por­ta­tion, Mar said that govern­ment should give sup­port to our farm­ers to im­prove their pro­duc­tion and be­come more com­pet­i­tive,” she said.

Cit­ing its detri­men­tal ef­fects to the sugar in­dus­try, sugar in­dus­try stake­hold­ers in the coun­try in­clud­ing block farms, agrar­ian re­form ben­e­fi­cia­ries (ARBS) and work­ers, planters fed­er­a­tion and as­so­ci­a­tions, sugar millers, re­fin­ers, bioethanol pro­duc­ers, and bagasse-based power gen­er­a­tors have al­ready adopted a res­o­lu­tion ex­press­ing their col­lec­tive stand against the pro­posed lib­er­al­iza­tion or dereg­u­la­tion of sugar im­por­ta­tion dur­ing the Sugar In­dus­try Stake­hold­ers’ Sum­mit in Que­zon City ear­lier this month.

The la­bor sec­tor, how­ever, ex­pressed dis­may on the re­sult of the sum­mit and doubted that Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte will lis­ten to the sen­ti­ments of the stake­hold­ers.

It can be re­called that Agri­cul­ture Sec­re­tary Em­manuel Piñol, at the side­lines of the sum­mit, said he can­not con­vince the eco­nomic man­agers. In­stead, they will just re­lay the sen­ti­ments of the stake­hold­ers to Duterte.

For the la­bor, the sum­mit was more of an ex­er­cise in fu­til­ity be­cause it did not serve the pur­pose of de­fend­ing the in­ter­est of the stake­hold­ers of the sugar in­dus­try.

“Given such re­sult and ges­ture of Piñol, it seems that sugar im­port lib­er­al­iza­tion will re­ally push through,” they added.

Aside from two man­i­festos of the la­bor sec­tor, the Pro­vin­cial Govern­ment of Ne­gros Oc­ci­den­tal also ear­lier passed a res­o­lu­tion op­pos­ing the pro­posed im­port scheme for sugar.

Even the Se­nate has backed such op­po­si­tion by pass­ing a res­o­lu­tion last week call­ing on the Ex­ec­u­tive Depart­ment to abort such an “un­timely and ir­rel­e­vant” mea­sure in or­der to safe­guard the econ­omy and wel­fare of sugar farm­ers and work­ers in 28 prov­inces in the coun­try in­clud­ing Ne­gros Oc­ci­den­tal.

In­tro­duced and adopted by 10 law­mak­ers namely Se­na­tors Juan Edgardo An­gara, Nancy Bi­nay, Joseph Vic­tor Ejercito, Sher­win Gatchalian, Richard Gor­don, Loren Le­garda, Aquilino Pi­mentel III, Joel Vil­lanueva, Cyn­thia Vil­lar and Juan Miguel Zu­biri, the res­o­lu­tion said the pro­posed mea­sure cre­ated a stir and fear among the sugar in­dus­try stake­hold­ers.

For the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tive, mean­while, the Visayan Bloc also ex­pressed sup­port to the sugar in­dus­try.

On Fe­bru­ary 6, Ba­colod City Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Greg Gasa­taya man­i­fested his op­po­si­tion on the pro­posed sugar lib­er­al­iza­tion dur­ing a priv­i­lege speech.

Man­i­festo

Mean­while, var­i­ous sec­tor rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the prov­ince who are vol­un­teers of “Otso Diretso” in Ne­gros Oc­ci­den­tal signed a man­i­festo of sup­port to push for lo­cal de­vel­op­ment agenda.

The move is seen to ef­fec­tively ad­dress ma­jor de­vel­op­ment chal­lenges presently faced by the

prov­ince and the coun­try as well.

The sign­ing of man­i­festo was also done yes­ter­day, at the side­lines of cam­paign sor­ties of “Otso Diretso” in the prov­ince.

The man­i­festo stated that the de­vel­op­ment chal­lenges call for a de­ter­mined and well-stud­ied leg­isla­tive agenda.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of var­i­ous sec­tors have asked the se­na­to­rial can­di­dates of Lib­eral Party (LP) to adopt and pur­sue this by way of leg­is­la­tion and ad­vo­cacy.

The ma­jor con­cerns which the sec­tor-rep­re­sen­ta­tives are ask­ing for sup­port in­clude the re­cre­ation of Ne­gros Is­land Re­gion (NIR), which they con­sider as an ini­tia­tive un­der­taken to unite the two Ne­gros prov­inces un­der one sep­a­rate re­gion

but un­for­tu­nately aborted due to ex­ec­u­tive fiat.

Thus, it needs to be restud­ied with the end view of find­ing ways to in­sti­tu­tion­al­ize the oneis­land re­gion, the man­i­festo said.

They would also like to put fo­cus on pro-agri­cul­ture and fish­eries agenda that in­cludes the re­cently passed Rice Tar­if­fi­ca­tion Act and pro­posed sugar im­port dereg­u­la­tion.

The sec­tors see a need to have pro-con­sumer govern­ment pol­icy frame­work amid re­cent and im­pend­ing events threat­en­ing Filipino farm­ers and fish­er­folks.

The man­i­festo also un­der­scored the need for bet­ter govern­ment sup­port, lower in­put and trans­port costs, and more fa­vor­able busi­ness en­vi­ron­ments.

It also cited char­ter change and fed­er­al­ism as among the is­sues that need to be given fo­cus by the would-be se­na­tors.

Other con­cerns they would like to be car­ried out by the se­na­to­rial bets are the tax re­form law, in­de­pen­dent and sov­er­eign Philip­pines, the cul­ture of killings and vi­o­lence, and hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions, and at­tacks to the church and its lead­ers by the govern­ment, among oth­ers.

Other “Otso Diretso” can­di­dates who were in the prov­ince yes­ter­day were lawyer Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno, Samira Ali Gu­toc-tomawis and Florin Hil­bay.

Paulo Benigno “Bam” Aquino, mean­while, was rep­re­sented by his wife Timmy.*

RICHARD MALIHAN PHOTO

DAN­GER­OUS. A stu­dent on board an over­loaded tri­cy­cle at Sal­vador Bene­dicto in Ne­gros Oc­co­den­tal noon­time Thurs­day.

TERESA ELLERA PHOTO

SOME of the se­na­to­rial bets of op­po­si­tion's “Otso Diretso” hold a di­a­logue with repere­sen­ta­tives of dif­fer­ent sec­tors in Ba­colod City yes­ter­day.

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