NEGOCC SUGAR PLANTERS ASK PRRD TO REVIEW LIBERALIZATION PLAN
Sugar Regulatory Administration Board Member Emilio Yulo III in a press conference in Bacolod City on Thursday (Jan. 24, 2019) (Photo by Erwin P. Nicavera)
BACOLOD CITY — Sugar planters and producers in Negros Occidental are appealing to President Rodrigo R. Duterte to reconsider the government’s plan to liberalize or deregulate the import of sugar amid apprehensions it could cause social unrest.
Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) Board Member Emilio Yulo III, in a press conference here Thursday, said they are opposed to the pronouncement of Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno to liberalize the sugar industry.
Yulo, representing the planters, said any unabated open importation will result in the death of the sugar industry.
Recalling the time in the 1980s, when sugar prices decreased to a precarious level, he said deregulation would also affect the socio-political situation, especially in Negros Occidental whose lifeblood is the sugar industry.
“I am making this statement not as an SRA official but as representative of sugar planters and producers,” Yulo said, adding that the industry has yet to reach a level of being competitive in terms of production efficiency thus, “now is not the time to liberalize.”
Earlier, Diokno said sugar in the Philippines is very expensive compared to global prices, and the government plans to deregulate or relax the industry within the year.
“You have to relax the rules on importation — that puts pressure on the domestic economy to compete with the rest of the world,” the budget secretary added.
Amid the woes hounding the sugar industry, leaders have recognized the need for a long-term plan.
Yulo said they are now lobbying with other industry stakeholders, individuals and groups sympathetic to the industry, and concerned agencies, such as the SRA and the Department of Agriculture.
Sugar producers are set to express their concerns to Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, also the chair of the Sugar Board, in a meeting on January 30.
“The government should hear out the industry before making any serious policy statement or proposing such a drastic measure,” Yulo said, adding that they suspect that industry users are also lobbying with policy makers for the realization of the liberalization plan.
As he dismissed claims that sugar importation is needed as prices of the commodity is high, the SRA official said it is not the farm gate or mill site prices of sugar that have remained high, but the retail prices of sugar.
In Negros Occidental, producers are selling their brown or raw sugar at PHP1,470 per 50-kg. bag.
Yulo said that in Metro Manila, refined sugar is sold at PHP60 to PHP62 per kg., which is equivalent to PHP3,000 per bag.
“So, who is making the killing?” he asked. (PNA)