Workers’ groups launch manifesto vs. sugar import liberalization

OPPOSITION Wennie Sancho (2nd from left), secretary general of General Alliance of Workers Associations, and Hernane Braza, (2nd from right), national president of Philippine Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Workers Union-Trade Union of Congress of the Philippines, lead the signing of the “The Karga-Tapas Manifesto” opposing the proposal to liberalize the importation of sugar in Bacolod City on Feb. 4, 2019. (Photo from PNA/EPN)

BACOLOD City – Three labor groups launched a manifesto expressing their opposition to the liberalization of sugar imports, a proposal that has been met with protests by sugar industry stakeholders in Negros Occidental since last month.

The position paper, titled “The Karga-Tapas Manifesto”, was signed by leaders of the General Alliance of Workers Associations (GAWA), Philippine Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Workers Union -Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (Paciwu-TUCP), and National Congress and Unions in the Sugar Industry of the Philippines (NACUSIP) in a forum held at the Geocadin Building in this city on Monday.

Karga-Tapas is Hiligaynon for a farm worker whose job is to cut and haul sugarcane.

“If this plan will materialize, it will obliterate our local industry that would result into severe economic dislocation of thousands of sugar farmers and workers. The economic disaster that would occur would be unparalleled in the history of our province,” the labor groups said in the manifesto.

Negros Occidental, considered the country’s sugar capital, produces close to 60 percent of the Philippines’ sugar output.

GAWA secretary general Wennie Sancho said the position paper is in reaction to the pronouncement of Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno to “relax” the rules or deregulate the importation of sugar.

Sancho signed the manifesto together with Paciwu-TUCP national president Hernane Braza and NACUSIP national director Jun de la Cruz.

Both Sancho and Braza are also labor sector representatives to the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board – Western Visayas.

According to the labor groups, the economic managers need to consider the implications of the sugar import liberalization scheme, as it would come “at the cost of the economic well-being of the people.”

Copies of the manifesto will be furnished to Sugar Regulatory Administration chief Hermenegildo Serafica and two members of the Sugar Board, representing the planters and the millers, to be presented during the Sugar Summit in Manila on February 11.

Last week, Diokno said while the planned liberalization of sugar imports would negatively affect local producers, this would benefit a greater number of consumers.

“There are more consumers than sugar producers,” he told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

The plan to import some 200,000 metric tons of sugar seeks to address the elevated domestic inflation rate, whose upticks last year was caused by supply-side factors, such as the lack of supply of rice, meat, and several agricultural products, Diokno said. (PNA)