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Marcos pledges to give local sugar production priority.

On Wednesday, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. told the stakeholders in the sugar sector that he would prioritize local production despite scheduled intentions to import 150,000 metric tons (MT) of sugar.

Marcos discussed his administration’s numerous attempts to grow the sector and increase its competitiveness on the global stage at a consultative meeting with local farmers, planters, millers, and dealers in Malacaan.

But in the interim, he said, the nation still required sugar imports to boost the supply and maintain the price.

“Unfortunately, we still need to import up to 150,000 metric tons,” said the speaker. But if our local output is strong, we might not need to import all of those [150 MT of sugar], Marcos stated.

“In the end, we’ll continue to favor [the stakeholders] by choosing to buy domestically produced goods over those that are imported. In light of this, ‘yun ang talagang kailangan (So, that’s what we really need),” he said.

Marcos approved an additional 150,000 MT of sugar imports on Monday.

Marcos noted the concerns and recommendations made by the stakeholders at the consultative meeting, including the request to identify sugar lands to boost acreage and regional output.

He added that there was also a suggestion to bring back the Philippine Sugar Corporation (PhilSuCor). This company supports the sugarcane industry and is owned and controlled by the government.

Due to alleged overlaps in duties with the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA), PhilSuCor was eliminated in 2018.

“Revitalizing PhilSuCor was one of the ideas raised throughout the discussion. It provides financing for farmers, particularly for cooperatives and farmers’ associations, or what are known as “block” associations. He declared, “We will resurrect this and make certain adjustments. Kaya’t bubuhayin natin, at babaguhin natin.

Let’s examine the necessary adjustments so that we can adapt to our current circumstance and continue helping our farmer groups, he continued.

Future goals

Pablo Luis Azcona, the acting administrator of the SRA, also spoke at the meeting. He discussed the advantages of shifting the harvesting and milling to September, which would result in less milling of young canes, improved sugar recovery, a longer milling period, higher production volumes, better factory setup, and equal opportunity for millers and farmers.

To increase the nation’s sugar production, Marcos promised to “balance” the situation.

“Yung balanse diyan, ‘yun ang kailangan. We need to balance it.) Kailangan naman kumpleto ang ating suplay ng asukal ngunit dapat naman lahat ng production galing sa Pilipinas. We must ensure that there is an adequate supply of sugar and that we initially buy products made in the Philippines. That is what we decided, he said.

One of the participants at the meeting, Mayor Jose Nadie Arceo of Hinigaran Town in Negros Occidental, thanked Marcos for the chance to hear the opinions of the people who benefited from the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and for being the “first” president to do so.

“I sincerely appreciate the chance you gave me to inform the President of the true issues facing CARP beneficiaries. Only this president has given me this opportunity; the others have not,” Arceo remarked.

Arceo ensured that small farmers would receive the necessary support because they comprise between 85 and 90 percent of the sugar sector.

Representatives from small sugar producers and block farmers, beneficiaries from indigenous people (IP), the United Sugar Producers Federation (UNIFED), the Luzon Federation of Sugar Producers, Inc. (LUZONFED), the Kabankalan-Ilog Planters Association (KABILOG PA), millers, and local traders were present at the meeting with Marcos.

Mayor Benjie Miranda of Arceo and Kabankalan City in Negros Occidental was one of the meeting’s important participants.
Manuel Lamata from UNIFED, Cornelio Toreja from LUZONFED, Petie Sumagaysay from KABILOG PA, Lance Gokongwei from Universal Robina Corp., and Gareth McGeown, who was there on behalf of Coca-Cola’s domestic merchants, were also there.

Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile Sr., Special Assistant to the President Secretary Antonio Ernesto Lagdameo Jr., and Communications Secretary Cheloy Garafil were among the cabinet secretaries present at the meeting.

Domingo Panganiban, senior undersecretary for agriculture, and Elaine Masukat, senior undersecretary for presidential management staff, were also in attendance.

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