By: Glazyl Y. Masculino
The labor sector in Negros Occidental is appealing to the government, particularly to economic managers not to pursue their plan to liberalize the importation of sugar, during the launching of Sugar Watch Philippines (SWP) in Bacolod City, in celebration of the International Labor Day on May 1.
Led by the General Alliance of Workers Associations (GAWA), about 46 leaders and representatives of various labor groups and unions, who were wearing black shirts, expressed their opposition against sugar import liberalization in the launching yesterday.
The SWP, a watchdog of the sugar industry is composed mainly of sugar workers, farmers, agrarian reform beneficiaries and labor unions, among other stakeholders nationwide.
The labor sector, in a manifesto, said they shall not waiver only to manifest their opposition against sugar import liberalization but to resist its implementation in order to prevent the demise of the sugar industry.
We, the workers, agrarian reform beneficiaries, small farmers, and all stakeholders of the sugar industry, must brace ourselves against the impending economic catastrophe by preventing the implementation of sugar import liberalization which shall be our advocacy to save the sugar industry from its imminent collapse, the group said.
We should never allow the sugar industry to die in the doorsteps of the province, the group said.
This is to remind all workers, particularly the workers in the sugar industry that we shall defend our means of livelihood and we shall defend it with honor and dignity, the group said.
Meanwhile, the labor convenors of the SWP, in a solidarity statement, condemned in the strongest possible terms the proposed sugar import liberalization because it would obliterate the local sugar industry that would displace thousands of sugar workers and their families.
The SWP said we must have the courage and the fortitude to oppose and manifest our dissent against any and all attempts to deregulate the importation of sugar.
They said they should firmly stand up with strength and determination to defend the interests of the sugar workers.
We cannot remain silent in the midst of this impending economic disaster which is grave and imminent. Hence, we should look upon this opposition as a crusade to defend the livelihood and continued employment of the marginalized farmers-producers and workers including their families, they said.
The group said it is unfortunate that the economic managers in the government had a misconception as to the nature of what the real problems are in the sugar industry and who were causing them.
Any decision in favor of the sugar import liberalization would be a dreadful blow to the sugar industry and its stakeholders, they added.
On March 6, the local labor sector formed the Rice and Sugar Watch (RSW)-Negros, which is initially composed of about 20 organizations, mainly sugar and rice cooperatives and labor unions, serving as ad hoc council of leaders.
During the forum yesterday, the labor sector also presented their issues and concerns on the sugar import liberalization plan, the proliferation of Chinese Workers into the country, and wage increase.
For the sugar import liberation plan, SWP secretary general Wennie Sancho, said the future of about 84,000 farmers and 720,000 industrial workers can only be put to rest if the government shall issue a policy statement that there is no need to deregulate the importation of sugar especially by the economic managers.
Sancho also said that the unresolved issue on the price of retail sugar in the markers and groceries should be addressed by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to determine who are benefiting from the manipulation of sugar prices at the expense of the industry.
He also said they are pushing for the increase of the daily wage in Western Visayas of P73 to P100. As of December 2018, the nominal wage in the region is P365, but the real wage is P301.65.