Press Release
March 12, 2019


Sen. Grace Poe today maintained the country is not yet prepared for a liberalized sugar industry as cheaper imports could hurt farmers and eventually kill their livelihood.

"For me, before the government entertains the idea of liberalizing sugar imports, kailangan muna talagang palakasin ang industriya. Kung hindi, mapapatay ang industriya, mawawala 'yan," said Poe in a radio interview in Bacolod, Negros Occidental on Tuesday, March 12.

Poe, an independent senatorial candidate, was asked about her stand on a pressing issue that would directly affect farmers in the Philippines' sugarbowl which produces about half of the country's sugar supply.

Also, she said Republic Act 10659 or the Sugarcane Industry Development Act passed in 2015 is a relatively new law that seeks to promote the competitiveness of the sugarcane industry, improve farmers' incomes and grant socialized credit to them. The law was passed to enable the industry to be more competitive as tariff on imported sugars is lowered to five percent as provided by the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement.

"The truth is the Sugarcane Industry Development Act is in its infancy. Bago magsabi ang gobyerno na i-liberalize 'yan [ang sugar imports], alagaan muna ang industriya. At least make them a little bit more competitive, put in more money and make sure that that money really reaches the farmers," Poe pointed out.

The sugar sector contributes about P90 billion to the economy annually. Sugarcane is planted to more than 400,000 hectares by an estimated 84,000 farmers.

Economic managers earlier proposed to relax rules to allow for more sugar imports as locally-sourced sugar is more expensive compared with other countries.

Poe, however, said sugar yields in Thailand and other Latin American countries are far better than the Philippines because of their advanced technology and more support from their government.

"Tayo hindi [competitive] kasi 'yung ating technology hindi pa ganon kagaling. Hindi pa natin kayang makipagsabayan sa ngayon," Poe stressed.

Poe added the government should do its responsibility to fully implement the law to further strengthen the industry on the back of underspending of funds allocated under the 2015 sugar law.

"Eventually we can do it [liberalized trade]. Ang sinasabi ko lang sa ngayon, taasan muna natin ang yields. Let's mechanize, let's make sure that they form cooperatives so that they're more empowered," Poe said.

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