Sugar industry players in Negros Oriental have expressed concern over the implementation of the Free Trade Agreements with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, particularly with the rampant sugar smuggling.
Ed Du, president of the Negros Oriental Chamber of Commerce and Industry, noted that even before the AFTA implementation, smuggling of sugar had already been a problem.
The group also took note of the five percent tariff under the agreement. Du said Thailand sugar, for example, already costs much lower compared to Philippine sugar because of the high cost of production, the unabated increase in fuel prices, and the transportation expense from one port to another.
He added that imported agricultural and poultry products have already been coming into the local market even before the AFTA. “In supermarkets here, carrots coming from Canlaon City obviously cannot compete with the carrots or camote coming from the ASEAN neighbors”, Du said.
Despite the apprehension, NOCCI agreed to partner with the Department of Trade and Industry and Silliman University, in conducting an awareness and education campaign to inform Negrenses of the AFTA.
The memorandum of agreement was signed between and among Du; director Senen Perlada, of the Bureau of Export Trade Promotion; Asec Ramon Vicente Kabigting, of the Philippine Trade Training Center; and Cleonico Fontelo, vice president for finance of SU.*JG
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