CONFED calls for ‘cor­rec­tion’ of SIDA bud­get cut

Ledesma: We have suf­fered enough in the past two years

Watchmen Daily Journal - - Top Stories - By Dominique Gabriel G. Bañaga

The Con­fed­er­a­tion of Sugar Pro­duc­ers (Confed) in Ne­gros and Panay called on law­mak­ers to “cor­rect” the bud­get cut on the Sugar In­dus­try De­vel­op­ment Act, which saw fund­ing drop from P2 bil­lion to P500 mil­lion.

Confed chair­man Ni­cholas Ledesma yes­ter­day said, based on Sugar Reg­u­la­tory Ad­min­is­tra­tion (SRA) records, the bud­get cut should not have hap­pened be­cause SIDA uti­liza­tion reached P1.2 bil­lion last year, ma­jor­ity of which went to in­fra­struc­ture and schol­ar­ships.

He pointed out, only funds for so­cial­ized credit had been un­der­uti­lized, blam­ing it on a “strin­gent process” that made it dif­fi­cult for small farm­ers to ac­cess.

“With the re­cent abo­li­tion of Philsu­cor (Philip­pine Sugar Cor­po­ra­tion), we are pressed to ap­peal that so­cial­ized credit avail­abil­ity must be made more sim­pler for small farm­ers and agrar­ian re­form ben­e­fi­cia­ries, [which] com­prise al­most 90 per­cent of sugar pro­duc­ers, and for whom the SIDA Law was in­tended to make the sugar in­dus­try more com­pet­i­tive,” Ledesma said.

Ear­lier, Se­na­tor Cyn­thia Villar, who chairs the Se­nate Com­mit­tee on Agri­cul­ture, said the an­nual P2 bil­lion SIDA al­lo­ca­tion was re­duced to P500 mil­lion for next year “due to un­der spend­ing or un­der­uti­liza­tion.”

Ac­cord­ing to the se­na­tor, who was present for the Pintaflo­res Fes­ti­val in San Car­los City last Mon­day, the Depart­ment of Bud­get and Man­age­ment re­duced the SIDA funds al­lo­ca­tion be­cause the agen­cies in­volved in uti­liz­ing fi­nan­cial al­lo­ca­tions did not have the ca­pac­ity to fully spend the amount.

Ledesma said the bud­get cut would have a “dras­tic ef­fect on the in­dus­try’s tract to has­ten mech­a­niza­tion as a pri­or­ity for this year as well.”

He also called for the bud­get for re­search and de­vel­op­ment to re­main in­tact and ap­pealed for SRA to be more ag­gres­sive in pro­gram im­ple­men­ta­tion or to cre­ate a desk solely de­voted to SIDA and mak­ing it more ac­ces­si­ble.

In ad­di­tion, the Confed chair stressed the need for an over­sight com­mit­tee to en­sure pro­grams are work­able and ad­dress­ing the needs of farm­ers.

“We have suf­fered enough in the past two years,” Ledesma stressed. “Give the in­dus­try our due.”

The SIDA law, au­thored by Ne­gros Oc­ci­den­tal third dis­trict Rep. Al­fredo Ben­itez, co-au­thored by Villar and co-spon­sored by Se­na­tor JV Ejercito Estrada in the Se­nate, was passed into law three years ago.

The law sought to boost the pro­duc­tion of sug­ar­cane and sugar; and in­crease in­comes for sug­ar­cane farm­ers, planters, and work­ers.

(Richard Mal­i­han photo)

Ne­gros Oc­ci­den­tal Gover­nor Al­fredo Marañon, Jr. yes­ter­day led the in­spec­tion of nearly P85 mil­lion worth of dump trucks re­cently ac­quired by the pro­vin­cial govern­ment. The trucks will be used for dif­fer­ent pro­vin­cial govern­ment projects.

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