By: Dolly Yasa
BACOLOD City – Sugar farmers in Luzon joined the fray in putting pressure on the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) to protect the sugar industry by preventing the planned import liberalization.
In a press statement issued on Oct 11, 2019, Tatak Kalamay said former SRA Board Member Lito Sandoval did not mince words in criticizing current SRA Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica who earlier said he stands with the farmers but will take his “guidance” from Agriculture Sec. William Dar.
Tatak Kalamay is an umbrella organization of sugar federations, millers, laborers, farmers and agrarian reform beneficiaries.
“What guidance does he (Serafica) need? Isn’t it clear to him yet that any import liberalization program will be disastrous to the industry? Is he now telling us that he actually does not know what he is doing?” Sandoval said, adding that “it doesn’t take that much to understand that uncontrolled importation will kill us and destroy the lives of 5 million Filipinos who depend on the sugar industry.”
As a former member of the sugar body, Sandoval also brought up the positions made by SRA Board Members Dino Yulo (for the producers) and Roland Beltran (millers) who publicly opposed the planned liberalization “and it’s quite ironic that Serafica simply brushed it aside as he opts to wait for Sec. Dar’s guidance.”
“Is he beholden to somebody or he is not at all fit for the position,” Sandoval adds. He also cited the fact that during the time of former DA chief, Manny Piñol, “when the issue of import liberalization was brought up, Serafica only made his clear opposition to the issue when Piñol publicly stated so.”
“Wala ba siyang paninindigan? What was so different between then and now that he can’t make up his mind?” Sandoval added.
Luzon Federation (Luzonfed) head Arnel Torreja echoed Sandoval’s sentiments adding that thousands of sugar farmers in Luzon are getting “restless” in the face of the “deafening silence” as observed by Senator Zubiri from the DA and SRA.
“We have been told that our new DA has close ties with the economic managers, but we continue to believe that over and above that, his heart remains in protecting the agriculture industry as that is what he is known for, as an agricultural expert,” Torreja said.
“It is time for the SRA head to flex his muscles and show us some semblance of leadership. Enough is enough with this dilly-dallying. If you (Serafica) do not have it in you to protect the very industry that you vowed to serve, then it’s time to hang your hat and give it to someone who can truly lead the sugar industry,” Torreja added.
Luzonfed is part of the Tatak Kalamay group.