November 25, 2019
Erwin P. Nicavera (SunStar Bacolod) | https://bit.ly/35HmnRb
PASAY CITY -- Negrense Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri said efforts on looking for "solutions" to address the pressing challenges hounding the sugar industry are on.
Zubiri, on the sidelines of the Senate session here Monday, November 25, said his initial meeting with the economic managers was "okay."
Zubiri said National Economic and Development Authority Secretary Ernesto Pernia, Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez agreed to wait for their proposal.
"Our proposal was to put on hold first the plan to liberalize the sugar industry until we come up with our proposal to help ease and mitigate the high prices of sugar for our local producers," he added.
Zubiri is one of the 22 senators who signed and passed a resolution recently, urging the executive department not to pursue the planned liberalization with end view of safeguarding the industry.
On the sidelines of the visit of some Negros Occidental officials and stakeholders at the Senate Monday, November 25, he emphasized the need to strike a balance.
"We need to have a balance for our local producers and industrial users," the senator said, adding "we have to work out with a solution by coming up with a sustainable price where both farmers and end-users are happy."
Zubiri, also the Senate majority floor leader, said they are going to have a fact-finding mission in Thailand in January 2020 and it will be followed by a sugar summit.
During the summit, they will present the proposal to the stakeholders so to come up with "solutions" to be presented to the national government.
"By February next year, we will have our final proposal to the executive department," he added.
Meanwhile, Senate committee on agriculture and food Cynthia Villar said the sugar industry is facing a lot of challenges including lack of competitiveness of the farmers.
Villar said in the age of liberalization, which is happening in the world right now, there is a need to be competitive.
"We have to make reforms so our sugar farmers just like the rice farmers will be competitive," she said, adding that "we cannot go on being not competitive then being protected by the government."
The senator, who also signed the resolution against sugar import liberalization, said if the country always resists to liberalization, it can be sanctioned by the World Trade Organization (WTO), thereby affecting other industries.
"Our aim now is to make all our farmers competitive with the world prices," Villar added.