Villar to Negros Sugarmen: ‘Be Productive, Competitive’

Faced with threats from cheaper imported substitutes like the high fructose corn syrup, local sugar producers “should strive to get ahead,” Senator Cynthia Villar said here Sunday.

Speaking during the Farmers’ Day in Bago City, Negros Occidental, Villar said local producers should be competitive to overcome threats to the sugar industry.

I will “support anything that will help the sugar industry,” she said, adding that local producers must stand up to the competition.

Villar, co-chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, pointed out that the Sugarcane Industry Development Act of 2015 “was passed to help address any problem the sugar producers are facing — including the high fructose corn syrup.”

The law provides a P2-billion [annual] budget for the industry, the Senator, who co-authored the law, said.

She said the law was approved in anticipation of the “age of liberalization.”

“Maraming magbabago sa market,” Villar said.

“Ito na iyong sinasabi natin na mga darating na kalaban natin. Kaya tayo nagpasa ng Act, nagbigay ng budget sa sugar industry, because sabi nila ito iyong kailangan nilang budget to be able to compete in a liberalized environment,” she said.

Villar said that the P2-billion allocation under the law was intended for several purposes: infrastructure, mechanization, research and development, and education of sugarcane farm workers’ children.

She stressed that the amount must be used to empower the producers to set out products at a low cost, adding that the Sugar Regulatory Administration also has a budget to improve the industry.

Villar also expressed support to the proposed investigation into the importation and use of HFCS which she also believes is important for the local sugar industry.

Earlier, Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri and Richard Gordon sought a Senate inquiry, in aid of legislation, into the impact of the HFCS on the domestic sugar industry and the need to review government policies on the importation of the sweetener.

Bacolod City Rep. Greg Gasataya and other representatives from Negros Island and other sugar-producing provinces sought a similar action at the House.

Sugar industry leaders claimed the massive importation of HFCS threatens the financial viability of the local sugar industry.

Meanwhile, the Sugar Regulatory Administration has issued guidelines on the issuance of clearance for release of imported HFCS out.

Under the said Sugar Order dated 17 February 2017, the SRA disclosed that an importer or consignee of imported HFCS must be an international trader duly-registered with the SRA at the time of the application for clearance for release.

Applicants for the release of imported HFCS and chemically pure fructose must also submit to the Regulation Department of SRA in Quezon City various requirements, which must all be complied with, before the application can be accepted for processing.

The Sugar Order further provides that the clearance for the release shall indicate the classification of the fructose as either “B” for domestic market, “C” for reserved, and “D” for world market.

Non-compliance with the provisions of the Sugar Order shall subject the importer or consignee to the penalties provided under Sugar Order No. 10, series of 2009-2010, as amended by Sugar Order No. 10-A, series of 2009-2010, without prejudice to any other administrative and/or legal action that SRA may pursue.*(Eugene Y. Adiong)