House appropriations body okays Sugarcane Bill

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014


THE House committee on appropriations approved on Tuesday House Bill No. 52 or the Sugarcane Industry Development Act of 2014 (The Sugarcane Bill) authored by Negros Occidental Third District Representative Alfredo Benitez.

Benitez said that with the approval of the appropriations committee, he is expecting the House of Representatives to pass the bill when they resume session in May or June this year.

The Congress will have its Lenten recess starting today.

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The bill will be taken up at the plenary for the third and final reading once Congress resumes session, Benitez said.

Stakeholders of the sugar industry are hopeful of the passage of the bill before year 2015 for the survival of the sugar industry during the implementation of the Asian Free Trade Agreement (Afta) next year that would bring down the tariffs on imported sugar from five percent to zero tariff.

The Sugarcane Bill contains measures, including government assistance to the sugar industry like the setting up of the sugar industry fund.

Stakeholders said the Philippine industry cannot compete with those in other sugar producing countries because of lack of government support.

Benitez said the Sugarcane Bill has already hurdled the House committees on agriculture, and ways and means.

Sugar Regulatory Administration chief Gina Martin Bautista was present when House appropriations committee chaired by Davao Third District Rep. Isidro Ungab approved the bill, the lawmaker said.

Benitez refiled the bill during the 16th Congress after it failed to progress in the 15th Congress for lack of time.

Once the bill is passed in congress, Benitez said, they will closely monitor the Senate version of the bill.

Senators Cynthia Villar, who chairs the Senate committee on agriculture, JV Ejercito- Estrada, Francis Escudero and Antonio Trillanes are among those who sponsored the proposed Sugarcane Bills in the Senate.

"I have not seen any problem in the passage of the bill in the lower house. The bill is an effort of all the stakeholders in the sugar industry. We have consulted them and this bill is really for everybody involved in the sugar industry", Benitez said.*

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on March 12, 2014.

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