Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile assured members of the Sugar Alliance of the Philippines recently of his continued support for the sugar industry, a press release from the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters.
Among those present at the meeting were Sugar Regulatory Administrator Ma. Regina Martin, National Federation of Sugarcane Planters president Enrique Rojas, United Sugar Federation of the Philippines president Manolet Lamata, Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers Inc. president Danilo Abelita, Confederationof Sugar Producers Associationpresident Lito Coscolluela.
Sugar millers were represented by Francisco Varua, Jeanne Krebs, Pedro Roxas, Jose Mari Chan and Sugar Board member Atty. Jesus Barrera, the press release said.
NFSP executive committee members Jaime Golez, Romeo Garcia, Board Member Miller Serondo and Cagayan Vice-Governor Leonides Fausto, as well as Confed immediate past president Marcelino Aganon, Jr. and Sugar Master Plan Foundation executive director Felixberto Monaqsterio, also attended the meeting.
Rojas brought to the attention of the senator the perennial problem of the industry with sugar smuggling, particularly when world prices are substantially lower than domestic prices.
He said that the influx of cheaper smuggled sugar drives drown prices in the domestic market, to the detriment of sugar producers.
Rojas recommended to the senator that Customs collectors in ports which are considered as smuggling hot spots should be relieved from their posts.
Enrile replied that he has been consistently against all forms of smuggling. He assured the industry leaders that he will look more closely into the complaint and take the necessary measures to curb sugar smuggling.
When asked about the status of the Sugarcane Industry Development Act in the Senate, the Enrile expressed doubts if the measure can be passed on time in the present congress unless it is certified as urgent by President Benigno Aquino, the press release said.
In view of the competition from cheaper subsidized imported products faced by local agriculture producers due to trade liberalization, Enrile reiterated his call for more intensive government support for agriculture.
He said the government should aggressively promote a program geared towards food sovereignty for all Filipinos.
Enrile also emphasized that instead of spending billions of dollars in food imports annually, the government should come up with a program to maximize the use of all productive agricultural lands, increase spending on agricultural support and infrastructure and boost the productivity and reduce the production cost of farmers, the press release said.*