By Nanette Guadalquiver
BACOLOD CITY — Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson has welcomed the proposal to create a national sugar program that will manage the use of the P2-billion annual development fund for the sugar industry.
“Whatever body is formed that will handle the SIDA (fund) is good. They’ve always told us the sugar industry seems not ready to manage a P2-billion fund,” he said in a press conference on Monday.
Lacson said that “obviously there’s something wrong” since the fund has been reduced to only half a billion by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
“If this new body will assure that the funds allocated for the sugar industry will be used then it’s okay. I really don’t know (why they were not able to fully utilize it). Only the Sugar Regulatory Administration can answer that,” he added.
Known as the Philippines’s sugar capital, Negros Occidental produces almost 60 percent of the country’s sugar output.
During her visit to Negros Occidental last Friday, Senator Cynthia Villar, chair of the Senate committee on agriculture, bared that she is pushing for the creation of a national sugar program to be supervised by the Department of Agriculture to ensure that the industry development fund will be fully utilized.
The Sugar Industry Development Act (SIDA), which was enacted in 2015, provides a funding of P2 billion per year.
The alleged failure of the SRA to fully utilize the fund in the previous years has prompted the DBM to reduce the budget to only P500 million this year, Villar said.
The PHP2 billion annual fund includes allocation of P1 billion for infrastructure for farm-to-mill roads; P300 million for credit; P100 million for scholarships: P300 million for block farm of the land reform beneficiaries; and P300 million for shared facilities program.
SIDA or Republic Act 10659 seeks to promote the competitiveness of the sugarcane industry and maximize the utilization of sugarcane resources, and improve the incomes of farmers and farmworkers, through improved productivity, product diversification, job generation, and increased efficiency of sugar mills. (PNA)