Confed urges Negros solons to rectify SIDA budget slash

MANILA – The Confederation of Sugar Producers (Confed) Negros Panay is urging Negros solons to make representation before the House and the Senate to rectify the cut that brought down to P500 million the budget of the Sugar Industry Development Act, from the original P2 billion.

Confed chairman Nicholas Ledesma yesterday said records of the Sugar Regulatory Administration show that the budget cut should not have happened because SIDA utilization reached P1.2 billion last year, majority of which went to infrastructure and scholarships.

Ledesma said that only funds for socialized credit have been underutilized because of the stringent process involved in availing of such, which practically makes it difficult for small farmers to access.

“With the recent abolition of Philsucor, we are pressed to appeal that socialized credit availability must be made simpler for small farmers and agrarian reform beneficiaries that comprise almost 90 percent of sugar producers and for whom the SIDA law was intended to make the sugar industry more competitive,” he said.

The P2 billion annual allocation for the SIDA has been reduced to P500 million for next year, Senator Cynthia Villar, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, said, adding this is due to underspending or underutilization.

November 7, 2018
Visayan Daily Star (Gilbert P. Bayoran) | https://goo.gl/cPuoDQ

The Department of Budget and Management reduced the SIDA funds allocation because it believes that the agencies involved have no capacity to fully spend it, Villar, who attended Monday the Pintaflores Festival in San Carlos City, Negros Occidental, also said.

Meanwhile, Ledesma said that the budget cut will have a drastic effect on the industry's tract to hasten mechanization as a priority for this year as well.

“We also urge that the budget for research and development must be kept intact as this is necessary for the industry's sustainability,” he said, adding that they are also appealing to SRA to be more aggressive in program implementations and to create a desk that will work solely on SIDA, and how to make this more accessible to our industry stakeholders.

In addition, he stressed the need for the creation of an oversight committee to see to it that programs are indeed workable and address the present needs of the farmers.

“We have suffered enough in the past two years and this move will further dampen our situation. We strongly appeal to our solons to seek a review of the budget, and give the industry our due to make it globally competitive and sustainable,” Ledesma further said.

The SIDA law, authored by Rep. Alfredo Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3 rd District), co-authored by Villar, and co-sponsored by Senator JV Ejercito in the Senate, was passed into law three years ago, to boost the production of sugarcane and sugar, and increase the income of sugarcane farmers/planters and farm workers.

The law provides SIDA an allocation of P2 billion annually.

“I always told them to study how to fully utilize the fund because if you don't, it will be lowered by the DBM every year,” Villar said.

Of the P2 billion annual SIDA fund, P1 billion has been earmarked for infrastructure projects, such as farm to mill roads, P300 million for credit, P100 million for scholarships, P300 million for block farms, and P300 million for shared facilities program.

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