Sugar producing sectors and supporters, hold summit, up in arms against liberalization
Manila, Philippines – As the the Department of Finance (DOF) continues to push for sugar liberalization in the country, producing sectors and supporters held their “Sugar Summit” last Friday at the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) compound in Quezon City to amalgamate their strong oppositions to the plan.
It was led by the Unyon ng Manggawa Agrikultura (Uma), National Federation of Sugar Workers, their provincial chapters Kaisahan in Batangas, Ogyon in Bukidnon, Ambala in Tarlac and from Cebu. The Federation of Free Workers (FFW) also joined the summit and expressed opposition to the plan.
“This is the concrete expression of opposition of actual producers of sugar in the country. We are composed of farm workers, small peasants, union and federation workers, and we are also the most vulnerable sectors by the planned liberalization of the sugar industry,” Uma National Vice-Chairperson and former Anakpawis lawmaker Ariel “Ka Ayik” Casilao said in a press statement.
He added that they are opposing the neoliberal plan, not just for their sectoral interest but also for the people’s welfare, who will be consequently the end-victims. The DOF proposes to lift quantitative restrictions on imported rice and replace it with tariffs, akin to what was carried out by the Republic Act 11203 or Rice Liberalization Law for the rice industry.
“The Duterte government is incapable of learning lessons of its anti-people policies. The havoc caused by rice liberalization is already around us, and yet, here they are pondering about doing the same for the sugar industry. It is another way of saying, they are really planning to kill sugar farm workers and peasants by bankruptcy, displacement and throwing them into poverty and hunger,” the agricultural worker leader said.
Uma said that an approximate 720,000 sugar workers spread in 28 provinces in the country. There were 84,000 planters, two-thirds of whom are small farmers and agrarian reform beneficiaries. Income from sugar production is bare minimum as brought about by high production costs and competition against sugar and sugar substitute imports. The sugar industry has been traditionally at the recession as manifested by the annual ‘tiempo muerto,’ or dead season due to low demand.
“The industry posts around P96 billion and threatening this with liberalization is a man-made calamity for the country. This will repeat the faminous social catastrophe in Negros during the 1980s,” he added.
As alternative, the summit called for a national development framework for the sugar industry, based on self-sufficiency and strengthened land tenurial rights, and more protectionist measures from imported sugar and substitute.
“The neoliberal dogma of preferring imported sugar because it is cheaper is social and economic suicide. It chains the country, the consumers and the manufacturing sector to the monopoly control of sugar importers and traders. We had enough dominance of these greedy section in the oil and rice industry. Thus, we are calling other sectors for the resolute opposition to the sugar liberalization for the national interest and freedom from economic oppression and exploitation of other countries,” he ended. ###