By Madelaine B. Miraflor
Pressure is mounting for the officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) to take a stand against the liberalization of the sugar industry.
Over the weekend, sugar farmers in Luzon joined the clamor in putting pressure on DA and the SRA to protect the sugar industry and prevent the deregulation of sugar importation as recently suggested by the Department of Finance (DOF).
This was a few days after Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri said “there is this deafening silence from DA and SRA on position of sugar liberalization.”
But, Agriculture Secretary William Dar, even after Zubiri’s appeal, still refused to give a firm stand, saying the DA and the SRA will instead come up with a position paper that would outline the advantages and disadvantages of a liberalized sugar industry.
SRA Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica, too, did not oppose DOF’s proposal and said this is something that will be discussed by the Sugar Board “with the guidance from Secretary Dar.”
Former SRA Board Member Lito Sandoval did not mince words in criticizing Serafica for failing to take a stand.
“What guidance does he [Serafica] need? Isn’t it clear to him yet that any import liberalization program will be disastrous to the industry? Is he now telling us that he actually does not know what he is doing?” Sandoval said.
“It doesn’t take that much to understand that uncontrolled importation will kill us and destroy the lives of 5 million Filipinos who depend on the sugar industry,” he added.
DOF pointed out that liberalization could bring down the retail cost of sugar in the local market.
The agency stressed that the high effective protection rate (EPR) of the Philippine sugar industry penalized consumers and deterred the growth of downstream industries.