Lacson: Osmeña intervention disturbing

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Monday, August 18, 2014


NEGROS Occidental Third District Board Member Patrick Lacson said he found the intervention of Senator Sergio “Serge” Osmeña in the Senate version of the Sugarcane Bill disturbing.

Lacson said: “I just found it disturbing that he mentioned refinements that were needed in line with the country's international trade commitments and that he will be doing it in consultation with the industry's stakeholders."

Lacson said the House version of the bill authored by Third District Rep. Alfredo Benitez had been thoroughly studied.

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“I am confident that it is in line with international trade commitments and agreements and had been consulted with all industry stakeholders,” he said.

Lacson added: "Also I see it to be a bit insulting for him (Osmeña) to change the title from Sugarcane to Sugar. I wish he understands why the author named it "The Sugarcane Act" because the industry producers produce sugarcane and for more than a century the industry is stuck to raw and refined sugar.”

He said the bill is aimed to provide the enabling environment to make sugarcane and sugar production viable, competitive, and diversified despite the reduction of its Asean tariff to five percent soon.

“Bottomline is this, this act will not only get sufficient government funding for the much needed technology upgrade of the entire sugarcane value chain in the country. The act will also give the Sugar Regulatory Administration more teeth,” Lacson said.

He added that “the industry needs this to be done as much as possible so I hope that the committed senators led by Senator Francis Escudero will do all they can to prioritize this bill amid the plenary traffic."

Osmeña said that he will send the bill, with his suggested refinements, back to Senator Cynthia Villar, chair of the Senate committee on agriculture, in two weeks.

About two weeks ago, House Bill 4633 or the Sugarcane Industry Development Act authored by Benitez was passed on third and final reading in the House of Representatives.

The proposed law seeks to provide the sugar industry protection against the impact of the lowering of the tariffs on imported sugar by 2015 as provided by the Asean Free Trade Area-Common Effective Preferential Tariff Scheme (Afta-Cept).

It also aims to enhance and promote the development of sugar cane industry and enhance the value of the sugarcane through diversification, comprehensive regulation, and assured sources of financing.

The bill specifically provides for the industry-wide development of the sugarcane industry including diversification, research, and provision of necessary infrastructures to sugar producing areas.

House Bill 4633 also allows the creation of Special Economic Zones for the sugarcane industry as well as the creation of the Sugarcane Industry Development Fund to finance expenses such as, among others, feasibility studies and the project development stage of pushing to the direction of transforming the industry into a multi-product industry.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on August 18, 2014.

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