Press Release
November 14, 2013


      THE Committees on Agriculture and Food and Government Corporations and Public Enterprises, both chaired by Senator Cynthia A. Villar, together with Ways and Means, will conduct today (November 14, 2013) a Senate hearing on "Strengthening the Sugar Cane Industry," perceived to be a P70-billion industry in the country.

      The public hearing is in consonance with Senate Bills filed by Sen. Francis "Chiz" Escudero, Sen. Nancy Binay, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, Sen. JV Ejercito and Sen. Cynthia Villar.

      The public hearing will be held at the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) Social Hall in Bacolod City from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

      Villar said the proposed measures intend to boost the country's sugar cane industry, and recommend to create the Sugar Cane Industry Development Fund and to transfer to the Sugar Regulatory Board the power to nominate all members of the Philippine Sugar Corporation (PHILSUCOR) Board.

      She said the bills also seek adequate funding for the sugar industry fund to enable it to pursue and carry out its mandate and objectives under its Charter.

      She said the SRA led by its administrator, Ma. Regina Bautista-Martin, will present the "Sugar Industry Roadmap" in order to determine the challenges the industry is facing, especially the sugar cane farmers and workers.

      She specifically mentioned the looming sugar problems in 2015 with the cancellation of sugar tariffs for imported sugar so that it will be "zero rated."

      "This poses a huge threat to the local sugar industry," said the three-term congresswoman of Las Piñas City.

      "So we are here to assess the real situation of the sugar cane industry and to find means to maintain its profitability," said Villar.

      She guaranteed to address all the current and future issues concerning the sugar industry and its workers.

      She vowed to legislate appropriate applicable policy and support programs for the sugar industry, which plays a significant and critical role in our economic growth.

      Citing statistics from the SRA, Villar said a total of 422,500 hectares of the country's land are planted to sugar with 62,000 sugar farmers.

      SRA records also indicated that the livelihood of 62,000 sugar farmers and the 600,000 workers of the Philippine sugar industry would be threatened with the entry of imported sugar. It would also push downward the milling of locally-produced sugar.

      The neophyte senator said that through the public hearing, she likewise would like to know the damages incurred by the agriculture sector in the Eastern Visayas region devastated by super typhoon Yolanda.

      "Our SRA administrator has provided me a preliminary report on the extent of damage caused by typhoon Yolanda to sugar plantations, mills and warehouses of the sugar-producing provinces of Negros Occidental, Iloilo, Ormoc-Kananga in Leyte, Bogo-Medellin in Cebu and Capiz," said Villar.

      Expected to attend the hearing are Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo G. Maranon Jr, Bacolod City Mayor Monico O. Puentevella and SRA Chairman & Former Gov. Rafael Coscoluella.

      The public hearing will be followed by a press conference and a visit to HPCO Mill in Silay City

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