THE Visayan Bloc in the House of Representatives said it is supporting any government initiatives that will only strengthen the local sugar industry and enhance competitiveness through appropriate regulation.
In a statement Thursday, February 14, the Bloc led by Negros Occidental Alfredo Benitez said there is a proposal by certain economic managers to liberalize the sugar industry through deregulation of sugar imports that will, among others, allow the direct importation by any sugar user.
“The proffered rationale of this proposal is the perceived high prices of sugar supplied by the local sugar industry and that industrial users of sugar clamor for access to cheaper sugar inputs through direct importation,” it said.
The proposal has been met with staunch resistance from the sugar industry particularly the sugar farmers from across 28 provinces in the country such as Cagayan Valley, Tarlac, Pampanga, Batangas, Camarines Sur, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Iloilo, Capiz, Antique, Leyte, Cebu, Bukidnon, Davao del Sur, Sarangani Province, North and South Cotabato, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija, Bataan, Laguna, Cavite, Quezon province, Lanao del Sur, since sugar farming is their source of livelihood and is seen as a means to alleviate poverty.
Executive Order No. 18, Biofuel Act of 2006 and, more recently, the Sugar Industry Development Act of 2015 (Sida) are testaments to the vital role that the sugar industry plays to the country’s food security, employment, food safety, sustainable development, clean energy, social amelioration initiatives, peace and order in the countryside and, of course, contribution to national economy and national development, the statement said.
The Bloc said it is committed to review laws and government policies that put down instead of ensuring a level playing field that will be beneficial to the sugar producers and industry workers.
Further, the Visayan Bloc members support the call of the sugar industry stakeholders to review the proposed import liberalization at this time or it would lead to the collapse of the industry, it added.
“We reiterate our long-standing commitment to the sugar industry to be your voice and ally at the House of Representatives. Your welfare and security are our foremost priorities,” the statement said.