Cane Points: Brief History of Growers (2nd of 2 parts)

Exemplary Service to Planters and Workers

Despite its relatively small size, ASGI was at par with other bigger associations in terms of benefits to planters and their laborers and families.

From zero finances at the start of operations, ASGI posted a net income of P16,186.07 during its first year. ASGI’s judicious fiscal management did not go unnoticed, as it received many offers for its molasses in the following year. ASGI availed from Allied Overseas Company cash advance for CY 1966-67 molasses in the amount of P90,000, half of which were immediately released to the members.

ASGI secured from BMMC an increase in planters’ share from 60% to 62.5% which was later increased to 65% in 1973. Moreover, ASGI compelled BMMC to give the planters’ share in the “overage” at the end of each milling season.

Republic Act No. 4119, which was passed in June 20, 1964 and amended certain sections of RA 3428 (Workman’s Compensation Act), mandated that each planter should put up a bond of not more than P6,000.00 per worker as guaranteed benefits in case of illness or death in the course of his employment.

This was a big burden to planters. However, at no cost to its planter-members, ASGI commissioned Belfast Insurance to cover the mandated bonds and, on May 3, 1966, acquired authorization from the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation for ASGI members to act as self-insurers.

In its second year of operation, ASGI made a bold move of establishing the Rural Bank of Murcia, Inc. primarily to provide crop loans for its planter-members. The P200,000 capital was sourced from a three-year cash advance on molasses. At one point of its operation, the bank posted total resources of P10 million, making it one of the leading rural banks in the province.

In coordination with the Philippine Sugar Institute, ASGI held seminars and field trainings for encargados, cabos and drivers to increase their knowledge in sugarcane production and vehicle maintenance, thereby making them more efficient in farm operations. The association also facilitated seminars for planters to keep then abreast with modern sugar production technology as well as labor laws.

The association also served its members thru the Bacolod Murcia Sugarcane Growers Mill District Development Council. Headed for a long time by Baldomiro Rio, Jr. and later by Enrique M. Rojas, Jr., the MDDC provided a pool of tractors for plowing and trucks for hauling, soil sampling services and farm productivity seminars.

In a joint project with the Philippine Sugar Commission, ASGI leased a 10-hectare nursery at Hda. Mirabu, Murcia which distributed high-yielding variety cane points to planter-members to increase their farm production.

The “small” association which produced only 100,000 piculs (63.25 kg) of sugar from its 41 members in its first year of operations (1965-1966) posted a production of more than 500,000 piculs with a membership base of more than 250 planters after its 10th year (1975-76).

These outstanding services rendered to its planter-members attracted other planters. Members of the Bacolod-Murcia Farmers Association (BMFA) transferred to ASGI in the late 1970s, eventually leading to the dissolution of BMFA. ASGI became the sole association in BMMC, registering a production of more than 500,000 piculs in the early 1980s.

In 1997, BMMC closed down. ASGI negotiated with and milled entirely with Victorias Milling Company, securing from VMC an increase in planters share from 65% to 68%.

It was during this period that the rails of BMMC were removed, causing a big headache to planters in hauling their canes. ASGI again facilitated financing for the members’ hauling expenses and operated transloading stations in Iglau-an and in Cansilayan, Murcia to make it more cost-efficient for marginal farmers in Murcia area to deliver their canes.

The welfare of farm workers and their families was also addressed by the association. ASGI established a medical laboratory and clinic in Mansilingan, Bacolod City to cater to the medical and dental needs of laborers and their families. Staffed by a full-time physician and midwife-nurse, the clinic conducts urinalysis, blood analysis and other laboratory services, as well as free medicine to the workers and their families.

Moreover, the association provided scholarship subsidies and free skills training to hundreds of dependents of the workers of its members thru NFSP’s Educational Aid Program (EDAP) and the NFSP Sugarworkers Foundation Technical and Livelihood Skills Training Center in Alijis, Bacolod City. This program continues until now.

ASGI’s corporate life expired in 2007, putting an end to its legal identity. However, the passion and commitment to serve the planters and their workers live on. This motivated a group of planters to form the Integrated Sugarcane Growers of Negros, Inc. (ISGNI) as a new, separate and distinct corporate entity to serve the needs of the planters and their workers.

ISGNI’s founding officers elected Enrique D. Rojas to the top post which he holds until now. Under his leadership, ISGNI built in 2010 a two-storey commercial building in Mansilingan, Bacolod City.

The upper floor of the building serves as the office of the association and the MDDC while the ground floor was made available for lease, thereby making the building a self-sustaining additional source of income for the association.

On October 10, 2011, ISGNI also inaugurated the MDDC’s garage for its tractors and trucks along the national highway in Cansilayan, Murcia. The structure houses an office and a warehouse for fertilizer. It is also adjacent to the nursery which provides HYV cane points to planter-members.

To quote distinguished historian and sugar industry scholar Modesto P. Sa-onoy, “An association is measured not in terms of size or resources but in how much it has fulfilled its reason for being.”

In this aspect, the association has indeed come a very long way in the service of its planter-members and their workers and families.*

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