THE Sugarcane Bill is now a law after President Benigno S. Aquino III signed it on March 27.

Negros Occidental Third District Rep. Alfredo Benitez, author of the bill’s House version, said that Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa confirmed to him yesterday that President Aquino already signed the Sugarcane Law.

“The bill has been enacted into a law and it's a great blessing to the sugar industry. I would like to thank the President for enacting the bill into a law. It is a formal recognition of and giving value to the sugar industry," Benitez said in a telephone interview last night.

"I have been expecting the signing to come in February and I'm so thankful I'm only short of about a month of my expectation. We thank the President for the support," he added.

Negros Occidental produces about 60 percent of the country’s sugar output.

The Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Sugarcane Law will soon come out, Benitez said.

“Congress will be formally informed about the signing of the law of the President maybe today,” he said.

Under the Sugarcane Law, the sugar industry will have a P2-billion budget allocation.

Of the P2 billion, 50 percent or P1 billion will go to infrastructure. Of the remaining 50 percent, 15 percent will be allocated to farmer-beneficiaries for block farming, 15 percent to socialized credit, 15 percent for shared empowerment of sugar farmers and research, and 5 percent for scholarship program.

The law will 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).

Also, it aims to enhance and promote the development of sugarcane industry and enhance the value of the sugarcane through diversification, comprehensive regulation, and assured sources of financing.