The Philippine Star
Luzon farmers join call vs sugar import liberalization
BACOLOD CITY – Sugar farmers in Luzon joined the fray in putting pressure on the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) to protect the sugar industry and prevent the planned import liberalization announced by economic managers.
The DA and SRA were earlier urged by Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri to make a stand on sugar import liberalization, amid what he calls their “deafening silence” on the issue.
Former SRA board member Lito Sandoval even chided SRA administrator Hermenegildo Serafica who earlier said his personal stand was for the farmers but will take his “guidance” from Agriculture Secretary William Dar.
“What guidance does he (Serafica) need? Isn’t it clear to him yet that any import liberalization program will be disastrous to the industry? Is he now telling us that he actually does not know what he is doing,?” Sandoval said, adding that “it doesn’t take that much to understand that uncontrolled importation will kill us and destroy the lives of five million Filipinos who depend on the sugar industry.”
Task Force Kalamay, an umbrella organization of sugar federations, millers, labor, farmers and agrarian reform beneficiaries, sought intervention from Senate allies amid the proposal from the Department of Finance to liberalize the sugar industry following the rice industry.
Luzon Federation head Arnel Torreja also echoed Sandoval’s sentiments adding that thousands of sugar farmers in Luzon are getting “restless” in the face of the “deafening silence” from the DA and SRA.
“We have been told that our new DA has close ties with the economic managers, but we continue to believe that over and above that, his heart remains in protecting the agriculture industry as that is what he is known for, as an agricultural expert,” Torreja said.
“It is time for the SRA head to flex his muscles and show us some semblance of leadership. Enough is enough with this dilly-dallying. If you (Serafica) do not have it in you to protect the very industry that you vowed to serve, then it’s time to hang your hat and give it to someone who can truly lead the sugar industry,” Torreja added.
Zubiri earlier said Dar may have been under pressure from the finance managers who seem to be dictating the policy when it comes to movements in the government programs and projects.
Serafica disclosed that he was instructed by Dar to come up with a position paper listing the pros and cons on the proposed sugar import liberalization, which may affect about five million people, as sugar industry leaders have warned.
He added that they are doing a balancing act on what is good for the farmers and consumers, when asked about their stand on sugar import liberalization.*