Digicast Negros

House hearing explores ways to strengthen sugar industry

The House Committee on Agriculture and Food hearing of two proposed bills to strengthen the sugar industry at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City on Tuesday, January 23, was enlightening and productive, Rep. Emilio Yulo III (Neg. Occ, 5th District) said.

It was also proposed that the next hearing be held in Bacolod City, Rep. Jose Francisco Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3rd District) said.

The hearing presided by Rep. Wilfrido Mark Enverga (Quezon, 1st District), House Committee on Agriculture and Food chair, tackled HB 835 that seeks to strengthen the sugarcane industry and increase its annual supplemental budget.

Also heard was HB 2207 amending Section 11 of RA 10659, otherwise known as the Sugarcane Industry Development Act (SIDA) of 2015, by proportionately allocating expenditures based on productivity and granting the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) greater oversight and coordinating powers with pertinent government agencies with regard to importation of sugar.

“The SIDA hearing gave us hope that it will be revived and with better, more realistic budgets, as proposed by Rep. Michael Romero. CONFED advocates that the new budget be proportionately allocated to four key areas, namely, farm productivity improvement, mill efficiency improvement, infrastructure support, and cane transport systems upgrading,” Alan Gensoli, Confederation of Sugar Producers Association executive director, said.

One of the changes CONFED wants to see is for the SRA to have a dedicated organizational structure seeing to the implementation of SIDA, he said.

“Currently it has none of that, the reason why past implementation was slow, which caused government to reduce the budget, he said.

Gensoli said while they support the suggestion of Rep. Manuel Sagarbarria (Neg. Or., 2nd District) to give SRA more oversight powers in the area of sugar importation, “we hasten to add that this should be done in consistent and close coordination with sugar federations and other stakeholders”.

He also said more importation oversight should expand beyond sugar and into sugar substitutes.

CONFED submitted its position paper over a year ago co-signed with the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters, Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers and the Philippine Sugar Millers Association, he said.

Gina Martin, Philippine Sugar Research Institute (PHILSURIN) director general and former SRA administrator, said “it was very hopeful that the committee really wanted to hear how best to help the sugarcane industry. Many solutions were taken up suggested by different stakeholders. SRA was very willing to accept every assistance through amendments to the SIDA to better improve the service it can offer for the industry”.

“I pray that finally SRA will provide assistance to PHILSURIN in improving the industry’s productivity,” she said.*

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