Press Release
April 8, 2015

Villar: Law will make sure local sugar will prevail in ASEAN free trade

Sen. Cynthia Villar said the signing into law of the Sugar Industry Development Act will make sure local sugar will be able to compete against ASEAN countries when integration of economies starts in the later part of the year.

"Through this law, the concern that local sugar will not be favored in the ASEAN integration when cheaper sugar starts flooding the market is now addressed," Villar said.

Villar, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, said the law provides for additional government funding to make sure production cost of sugar will be cheaper and the quality of sugar products first-rate as tariffs on imported products drop.

When economies of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations integrate starting December 2015, tariff on sugar will be lowered to 5 percent.

"The new law makes sure that more assistance will be available for sugar workers to boost local sugar's competitiveness," Villar said.

Villar, principal sponsor of the Sugar Industry Development Act in the Senate, presided over two committee hearings on the measure, including one hearing held in Bacolod City on November 14, 2013.

On September 9, 2014, Villar sponsored and defended the sugar bill committee report. By October 27, 2014, the Senate voted unanimously to approve the measure on third reading.

Two meetings of the technical working group were also held to fine tune the law.

Villar also headed the Senate panel in the bicameral conference committee held on December 18, 2014. On February 2, 2015, she sponsored and worked for the approval of the bicameral report on the bill. By March 3, 2015, enrolled copies of the bill were transmitted to President Aquino through the Presidential-Legislative Liaison Office.

"The law as crafted, not only focuses on increasing and improving the yield, we also included programs that will develop the skills of the workers and their dependents through training and capacity-building activities," Villar said.

The law also mandates the Department of Budget and Management to include in the program of expenditures annually an amount of P2 billion, starting 2016, for the sugarcane industry and to be allocated as follows:

15% for the Block Farm Program;
15% for socialized credit;
15% for research and development, and capability building programs;
5% for scholarship grants; and
50% for infrastructure support programs.

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