Lawmakers urge caution against full liberalization of sugar industry

Published October 17, 2019, 3:39 PM

by Patrick Garcia

By Charissa Luci-Atienza

The Makabayan lawmakers have cautioned President Duterte’s economic managers against pursuing the full liberalization of the sugar industry, saying that it would mean a livelihood loss for the sugar farm workers “not only for three months but for a lifetime.”

The Joint Session of the Senate and the House of Representatives on the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao commences in the Plenary of the Batasang Pambansa on December 13, 2017. (ALVIN KASIBAN / MANILA BULLETIN)

Bayan Muna partylist Reps. Eufemia Cullamat, Carlos Isagani Zarate, and Ferdinand Gaite led the filing of House Resolution No. 439 to oppose the government’s full liberalization of the sugar industry.

Under HR 439, they urged the House leadership and the Lower Chamber as an institution to “stand behind” the farm workers, mill workers, and small planters of the sugar industry in opposing the economic managers’ plan to implement the full liberalization of the industry.

Joining them in filing the resolution were ACT Teachers partylist Rep. France Castro, Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas and Kabataan partylist Rep. Sarah Jane Elago.

The Makabayan bloc said the farm workers who are the lowest paid in our economy, earning only an average of P115-125 per day for men, and P110-115 per day for women and children, “will stand to lose the most if the industry is fully liberalized.”

“Most of the small planters in the industry are agrarian reform beneficiaries who soldiered on in planting sugar without government support. Thrusting them to slug it out with imported sugar in the domestic market without protection under a regime of full liberalization will only add cruelty to government neglect,” they said.

The progressive lawmakers questioned the assurance made by the economic managers that the sugar industry is ready for full liberalization, as the government had already put in place the Sugar Industry Development Act or Republic Act 10659.

“That assurance is false because SIDA is a failure. Its programs are exclusive for big planters. It has nothing to offer to small planters, agricultural and mill workers. But even big planters are complaining about their difficulties in accessing its funds,” they said.