THE Cagayan provincial government called on the national government to cancel its plan to liberalize sugar imports, warning that such a measure could destroy the sugar industry.

“As it is hereby resolved, to appeal to President Rodrigo R. Duterte to disallow the planned liberalization of the importation of sugar by the Department of Finance (DoF),” the provincial board said through Resolution No. 2019-10-232.

“Allowing the unregulated entry of the cheaper refined sugar into our shoes by the major sugar exporting countries like Thailand and India would ruin the Philippine sugar industry,” it said.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, Cagayan produced an average of 171,231 metric tons of sugarcane a year between 2010 and 2014. The Cagayan Valley region is a leading sugar producer alongside Western Visayas, Northern Mindanao, and Central Visayas.

“The consequence of the implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law… has adversely affected all the (rice) farmers, and again with the proposal of sugar liberalization, the sugar industry dependents are expectant of the same hostile effect,” it added.

The DoF formally proposed to liberalize sugar imports on Sept. 27, modeling the market opening on the rice market. The aim of the sugar measure is to help make the food processing industry more competitive by bringing down sugar prices.

Sugar producers claim the industry employs about five million people directly and indirectly, many of them agrarian reform beneficiaries or farmers owning five hectares or less.

Legislators from these provinces will be holding an inquiry in November after the Congress resumes to discuss the proposed liberalization. They also hope to discuss the under utilization of the P2-billion Sugar Industry Development Act (SIDA) fund, which should have been enough to help the industry be more competitive. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang