ARBS, sugar workers to Duterte ‘No to sugar import’
Gilbert P. Bayoran (The Freeman) - September 15, 2018 - 12:00am

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines — Agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) and sugar labor groups in Negros Occidental have protested against the opening of sugar importation as among the government’s measures to curb inflation.

 

They are asking President Rodrigo Duterte to ignore recommendations from his economic managers to open importation of sugar.

The ARBs and sugar labor groups, in a press conference on Tuesday, said they are protesting the issuance of the Joint Statement of the Economic Development Cluster on August 2018 Inflation that has a provision ordering the Sugar Regulatory Administration to “open importation of sugar to direct users to moderate cost to consumers.”

Enrique Tayo, chairman of the Negros Occidental Federation of Farmers Association, said they are hoping the president will heed their appeal because “sugar importation at this time when the milling season just started will depress sugar prices once again.”

This sentiment was echoed by Pedro Ogatis, manager of the Malaga-Cuenca Agrarian Reform Cooperative, Jun de la Cruz of Nacusip-TUCP, Wennie Sancho of General Alliance of Worker’s Association, and Jose Maria Montinola of the VICMICO Multi- Purpose Cooperative.

They appealed to Duterte to “review closely the plans of the economic managers as this will greatly affect the sugar industry.”

Tayo said there are over 100,000 ARBs in Negros Occidental alone who are slowly recuperating from the losses the industry incurred over the past two years. “This plan to allow open importation of sugar will depress sugar prices again and we may not be able to survive another crisis,” he said.

Ogatis said Duterte’s economic leaders must “come here (Negros Occ.) and see for themselves the plight of the ARBs,” who are barely surviving in tilling their lands due to high costs of farm inputs and labor, “not to mention the amortization we continue to pay to government, leaving us with barely enough for food on the table.”

De la Cruz meanwhile slammed the joint recommendation from the economic cabinet leaders as “without basis and even without dialoguing with affected sectors.” With mills now in operation, “importing sugar at this time will just flood the market and will kill the local industry,” he said.

Instead of looking at importation as the solution, Sancho said: “It is better for our government to focus on stopping sugar smuggling and warn traders who are capitalizing on the situation.”

Montinola, on the other hand, blamed the industrial users who he alleged are “agitating the situation because they will benefit greatly from this open importation. They cannot moderate their corporate greed even at the expense of robbing our government with proper revenues.”

She added that the president should “take a second look at these recommendations,” contending that sugar has never been identified as a prime commodity that has caused inflation to rise.

Tayo also said he is hopeful the president will listen as “he (Duterte) has always been supportive of the ARBs.” He further cited the help Malacañang extended when the issue of high fructose corn syrup almost led to the collapse of the sugar industry.

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