ASSISTANT secretary Antonio Joselito Lambino II said the Department of Finance (DOF) wants to learn more about sugar industry and its concerns towards making it globally-competitive.
“That’s the goal, that we’re able to compete with our neighbors,” Lambino said during his visit at the mill district in La Carlota City, Negros Occidental on Friday, together with Senate committee on agriculture chair Senator Cynthia Villar.
The two officials were hosted by Sugar Regulatory Administration board member Emilio Yulo III and the officials of Asociacion de Agricultores de La Carlota y Pontevedra Inc. led by president Roberto Cuenca.
Negros Occidental produces almost 60 percent of the country’s sugar output.
Villar emphasized the need for the sugar industry to be globally-competitive since the imports liberalization will take place in just a matter of time.
Given the global competition, Villar said the industry should also focus on the developmental aspect funded under Republic Act 10659 or the Sugar Industry Development Act (SIDA) of 2015.
However, since the P2-billion allocation under the law has not been fully utilized, the funding has been reduced by the Department of Budget and Management to P500 million this year, she said.
Villar pushed for the creation of the national sugar program to be supervised by the Department of Agriculture to ensure full utilization of the industry development fund.
SIDA aims to promote the competitiveness of the sugarcane industry and maximize the utilization of sugarcane resources, and improve the incomes of farmers and farmworkers, through improved productivity, product diversification, job generation, and increased efficiency of sugar mills.
Half of the P2 billion annual fund is allocated to infrastructure for farm-to-mill roads; P300 million for credit; P100 million for scholarships; P300 million for block farm of land reform beneficiaries; and P300 million for shared facilities program.
In November 2019, the Senate unanimously approved Resolution 213 urging the Executive Department not to pursue the planned liberalization of the sugar industry to safeguard the welfare of sugar farmers and industry workers in more than 20 provinces in the country. (PNA)