SAN Juan Rep. JV Ejercito Estrada warned that Filipino sugar planters may lose their livelihood if the government will not put in place a comprehensive program that will enable them to compete with their counterparts in Southeast Asia.
Ejercito Estrada said the absence of a long-term plan to aid sugarcane planters and other stakeholders will put at risk the entire local sugar industry which contributes about P70 billion to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and P2 billion to the national treasury in the form of value-added tax (VAT).
The young lawmaker said the government must immediately roll out measures such as alternative livelihood programs for sugarcane planters that may be displaced by the impending full implementation of the free trade scheme of the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) in 2015.
Under the so-called ASEAN Free Trade Area (FTA), cheap sugar from ASEAN member-countries such as Thailand could flood the local market and cause farmers to stop planting sugarcane as the price of sugar goes down due to oversupply.
“Huwag na sana natin antayin na marami pang magsasaka ang mawalan ng pinagkakakitaan at magutom bago pa tayo kumilos para hanapan sila ng panibagong trabaho,” Ejercito Estrada said.
He called on the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) to spearhead a campaign that would revive the local sugar industry and improve the economic condition of thousands of sugarcane planters who are mostly from Negros, the home province of Ejercito Estrada’s mother, San Juan Mayor Guia Gomez.
Earlier, sugarcane planters and millers urged the government to pitch in and help them meet the challenges of the full implementation of the ASEAN Free Trade Area in 2015.
January 14, 2013