Hearings on SIDA amendments to be held soon, Benitez says

The House Committee on Agriculture is set to conduct hearings on a bill filed by Rep. Manuel Sagarbarria (Neg. Or., 2nd District) seeking amendments to the Sugar Development Act to insulate the domestic sugar market from undue saturation of imported sugar in order to stabilize prices and to foster competition among local sugar producers.

Rep. Francisco Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3rd District), Committee on Agriculture vice chairman, said the hearings are expected to be held soon.

The SIDA of 2015 or Republic Act 10659 was authored by his brother, then Rep. Alfredo Benitez.

Sagarbarria in House Bill 2971 seeks to amend Section 11 of Republic Act 10659 to ensure a proportionate allocation of the SIDA funds based on productivity and the strengthening of the Sugar Regulatory Administration’s supervisory powers on the importation of sugar

The SIDA requires the annual allocation of P2 billion for the sugar industry – 15 percent for block farm grants, 15 percent for research and development, capability building and technology transfer, 15 percent for socialized credits for farm support and mechanization, 5 percent for scholarship grants and human resources development programs, and 50 percent for infrastructure development programs for farm to mill roads, irrigation and transport infrastructure.

On the proportionate allocation of funds, Sagarbarria explained that if a mill district produces 15 percent of the total net sugar produced in a year, then 15 percent of the following year’s program of expenditure should be allocated to that district.

“Because mill districts have varying production levels, it stands to reason that the allocation of expenditures should be proportionate to such production levels,” he said.

He said by basing the expenditure on productivity, the proposed amendment intends to foster healthy competition among mill districts.

“Districts are incentivized to produce more sugar if there is an expectation of greater funding as a reward,” Sagarbarria added.

Sagarbarria said his bill also seeks to grant SRA greater overnight and coordinating powers with the National Economic and Development Authority, Bureau of Customs, and other agencies on the importation of sugar.

“It goes without saying that the SIDA’s goal is to make the Philippines a primarily sugar-exporting country. This cannot be achieved if the SRA has no power to limit, stop, or regulate the amount of sugar imported into the country,” he said.*

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