NEGROS Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. said Monday that the sugar industry should not worry about the upcoming implementation of the Asean Free Trade Agreement (Afta) because it would make the industry more efficient to be able to compete with other countries.

Marañon’s statement came after he met Monday with some of the sugar industry leaders in a meeting where they also bid goodbye to US agriculture attaché Philip Shull, who will be assigned to China.

He said they took up concerns on how the local industry can compete during the implementation of Afta where very low tariff on sugar and other agricultural products would be imposed.

“We also discussed on how sound is the sugar industry,” Marañon said.

Negros produces 60 percent of the Philippines’s sugar output.

His meeting with sugar industry leaders took place after leaders belonging to the Sugar Alliance of the Philippines met and lobbied with House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and Senate President Franklin Drilon for the passage of the Sugarcane Industry Development Act.

The Sugar Industry Development Act sponsored by Negros Occidental Third District Rep. Alfredo Benitez is expected to be approved on third and final reading when Congress resumes session in July this year. It passed the second reading last week before the session was adjourned.

Sugar leaders put their hopes on the proposed law to become the “saving grace” of the sugar industry when the Afta is implemented starting next year.