Senate move to block sugar import liberalization hailed

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MANILA – Stakeholders on Thursday welcomed the Senate resolution urging the Executive Department “not to pursue the planned liberalization of the sugar industry.”

“We are very thankful that our senators closed ranks with us. This just shows they understand the plight of the sugar industry and its stakeholders,” said Emilio Yulo, Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) board member in a statement.

“We know the battle is far from over but this Senate resolution gives us a glimmer of hope that not all is lost. The Senate has always been our ally when it comes to protecting the industry because they’ve seen how our farmers toil the fields to survive the challenges the industry faced in the past couple of years,” he said.

Yulo said the industry hopes that like the senators, “the economic managers will also visit the fields so they can empathize with our small farmers which they will never get to do within the confines of their air-conditioned offices.”

In Senate Resolution 1014 signed Wednesday by senators Sonny Angara, Nancy Binay, JV Ejercito, Sherwin Gatchalian, Richard Gordon, Loren Legarda, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, Joel Villanueva, Cynthia Villar, and Juan Miguel Zubiri, legislators urged the Executive Department to abandon the planned sugar import liberalization with the end view of safeguarding the economy and welfare of sugar farmers and industry workers in 28 provinces of the country.

The senators said recent statements by economic managers on the proposed liberalization of the sugar industry through deregularization of imports and allowing users of sugar to directly import “created a stir and fear among the stakeholders in the industry.”

Economic managers of the administration earlier proposed the liberalization of sugar imports due to high prices of local sugar against those in the world market and that the same affects the competitiveness of sugar-containing food products for export.

The resolution, however, said that the liberalization or deregularization of the sugar industry will not affect the competitiveness of sugar-containing food products for export as it is already a policy of the SRA to allow food exporters to openly import sugar without value-added tax or customs duties provided that the end-product is exported and not sold locally.

It further states that the deregulated entry of subsidized sugar into the Philippine market “will be disastrous to our sugar industry,” which contributes an estimated PHP96 billion to the gross domestic product (GDP), particularly to the 84,000 sugar farmers and 720,000 industry workers directly affecting almost a million families or five million individuals in the country.

Meanwhile, Raymond Montinola, spokesperson of the Confederation of Sugar Producers, noted the senators were right in pointing out that the planned liberalization” can lead to the demise of the industry we love and can result to a tumultuous peace and order situation that we don’t want to relive again.”

“These senators have been with us in the last three years from the time we fought the HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup) entry to the sugar taxation and now again, when we are facing the threat of liberalization. Which is also why we should always remember who our allies are and who has our backs,” he said.

“We are not letting our guards down and we will continue to be vigilant and seek the intervention of our President to ensure that the plan (liberalization of sugar import) will never be implemented,” he added. (PNA)

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