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Sugar groups get House backing vs liberalization of sugar imports

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PEXEL.COM

SUGAR GROUPS fighting against the liberalization of sugar importation have gained support from the House of Representatives (HoR) as legislators passed a resolution earlier this week condemning the Department of Finance (DoF)’s deregulation plan.

The Philippine Sugar Millers Association (PSMA) and Confederation of Sugar Producers (Confed) said in separate statements Friday they are backing House Resolution No. 412 which formalized the opposition of legislators on the liberalization of sugar imports.

House Resolution No. 412, which was introduced by 21 congressmen, resolved to “express strong opposition to the planned liberalization or deregulation of sugar importation for the purpose of safeguarding the welfare of farmers and farm and mill workers across the country.” The resolution was received on Oct. 2.

“We are grateful for the support (congressmen have) given to the sugar industry,” Executive Director Jesus “Cocoy” L. Barrera said in the PSMA statement. “They have defended us from the time we were fighting for the passage of the Sugar Industry Development Act and for the increase in excise taxes on sweetened beverages using imported high-fructose corn syrup.”

Confed shared the same sentiment, saying getting the HoR to support its dissent towards sugar import liberalization is instrumental in convincing economic managers to reconsider its decision.

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“We in Confed have never been prouder of our champions in the House of Representatives for feeling the sentiments of the sugar producers, including millions of others who in one way or another are dependent on the sugar industry for their day-to-day needs,” Confed Spokesperson Raymond V. Montinola said.

To recall, the DoF made a formal proposal on Sept. 27 to liberalize the importation of sugar, replicating what the government has also recently implemented for the rice industry.

Part of the plan was to put up tariffs and safeguard measures to replace quantitative restrictions set by the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) on sugar importation. This will supposedly result to improved transparency and pricing in sugar trade, as the DoF said domestic prices are currently double the world market price.

But PSMA’s Mr. Barrera said having regulations on sugar importation is necessary. He said this practice is also observed in other countries, as this is meant to “effectively protect their sugar industries against subsidized sugar in the world market.”

“It is unfair and incorrect to say that locally produced sugar renders Philippine food exporters uncompetitive in the world market. Food processors import sugar duty-free and tax-free through their custom bonded warehouses,” he added.

Mr. Montinola of Confed noted pushing through with the liberalization of sugar importation will gravely damage the local sugar industry.

“We have been harping on this since DoF issued the pronouncements that they will once again pursue sugar liberalization as this is disastrous to the industry,” he said. “The high cost of retail prices in the domestic market has no correlation with millgate prices, which is also why time and again, we have asked DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) to look into this.”

Mr. Montinola also called on the government to focus on stabilizing the price of locally produced sugar, as he said it currently cannot compete with world prices. He said if there will be any importation program to be implemented by the government, it must be under the supervision of the SRA. — Denise A. Valdez

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