THE CONFEDERATION of Sugar Producers (CONFED) in Negros and Panay said it is lobbying Congress to reverse the budget cuts which reduced the funding for the Sugar Industry Development Act (SIDA) to P500 million next year from P2 billion in 2018.
The budget cuts were announced by Senator Cynthia A. Villar when she visited Negros Occidental. According to Ms. Villar, the funding was reduced due to underspending.
“The funds were underspent every year. The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) cut the allocation because they believe that the agencies involved have no capacity to fully spend the funds allocated,” Ms. Villar was quoted as saying in news reports.
“The Sugar Regulatory Administration’s (SRA) records show that, of the provisions for the SIDA, only the funds for socialized credit have been underutilized because of the stringent process involved in availing… which practically makes it difficult for small farmers to access,” CONFED said in a statement.
“With the recent abolition of Philsucor (the Philippine Sugar Corp.), we are pressed to appeal that socialized credit availability must be made simpler for small farmers and agrarian reform beneficiaries that comprise almost 90% of sugar producers and (whose competitiveness) the SIDA law was intended to (raise). The budget cut will have a drastic effect on the industry’s direction of hastening mechanization,” CONFED added.
CONFED said that it is also appealing to the SRA to implement programs more aggressively and to create a desk that will solely work to make SIDA more accessible to stakeholders. They also backed the creation of an oversight committee to ensure the feasibility of the programs.
Sought for comment, SRA Board Member Roland B. Beltran said in a text message: “We are working doubly hard to increase utilization of the budget for the Socialized Credit Program despite the administrative constraints.”
“SRA and LBP (Land Bank of the Philippines) agreed to streamline procedures so that loan applications of small farmers, to whom the program is intended, can be acted on swiftly,” Mr. Beltran said.
In a briefing, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said that SRA’s biggest underspending item is on machinery. Mr. Piñol said that SRA is currently procuring an estimated P300 million worth of farm equipment.
Mr. Piñol also said that SRA is having a hard time convincing stakeholders to avail of the loans.
“I am appealing that SRA be given the chance,” Mr. Piñol said. — Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio