by Lilybeth Ison
MANILA — Agriculture Secretary William Dar on Thursday vowed to review the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Sugarcane Industry Development Act (SIDA).
Dar also committed to reviewing the memorandum of agreement (MOA) with government agencies and the private sector on the implementation of the law.
“I have personally analyzed that the projects under the law have not moved. Hence, my first order of the day is now to review and strengthen the IRR, as well as the MOA with partner government agencies and the private sector,” Dar said during the Senate hearing of the Committee on Agriculture and Food.
“I affirm my personal commitment to personally oversee the necessary rebooting when it comes to how the law is implemented,” he said.
Senator Cynthia Villar, the chairperson of the Senate panel, expressed dismay over the reported failure of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) to fully implement SIDA, which resulted in the reduction of its budget from PHP2 billion in 2016 to only PHP500 million in 2019.
Villar said SIDA is a measure “meant to make sure the sugar industry will be able to compete head-on against foreign players.”
“I passed the law to boost the sugarcane industry which contributes PHP70 billion to the country’s economy annually. Moreover, an estimated 700,000 Filipinos are directly employed in sugar production. The industry really plays a vital role in the country’s economic development,” she stressed.
Villar said the reduction of the SIDA through the years has been the result of underspending, which if left unchecked, might result in a budget of only PHP67 million by 2020.
Under the law, PHP2 billion will be given yearly to the sugar industry –15 percent or PHP300 million for block farm grants; 15 percent for research and development, capability building and technology transfer; 15 percent for socialized credits to be implemented by Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) for farm support and mechanization; 5 percent or PHP100 million for scholarship grants and human resources development programs; and 50 percent for infrastructure development programs for farm to mill roads, irrigation and transport infrastructure.
“Nakakalungkot dahil napakaraming pwedeng paggamitan ng pondo para matulungan ang mga sugar industry players, lalo na ang mga maliliit na magsasaka. Bakit nagkaroon ng underspending (It’s frustrating because there are many initiatives and programs which can be financed by the fund to help sugar industry players, especially the small farmers. So why there is underspending?),” Villar said.
Confederation of Sugar Producers (CONFED) spokesperson Raymond Montinola earlier said they have been urging Congress to revisit the law, especially its IRR.
“We have been often told that the only way for our sugar industry to be globally competitive is to improve our productivity for which the SIDA law was created so that we can mechanize, have technical and financial assistance, and more. We have continuously urged to revisit the law, especially the implementing rules and guidelines, which has been very constricting for the sugar producers to access, particularly the small planters and our agrarian reform beneficiaries which comprise over 85 percent of sugar producers, yet none has been made,” he said. (PNA)