By Minerva Newman
CEBU CITY – Senator Cynthia Villar exhorted the members of the Philippine Sugar Technologists Association Inc. (Philsutech) to put their act together to help the sugar industry benefit from the SIDA law.
“As a senator and chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, one of my very first few legislation were the passage into law of the Sugar Industry Development Act (SIDA) …but it seems the law’s purpose and benefits were not maximized. Nakaka-disappoint na baka mapunta sa wala lang ang SIDA,” Villar said in her message during Philsutech’s 66th anniversary and annual national convention here recently.
Villar said she passed the law to boost the sugarcane industry which contributes P70 billion to the country’s economy annually and employs an estimated 700,000 Filipinos in sugar production.
She cited official reports from her oversight committee that since the enactment of SIDA, the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) has failed to implement its programs. As a result, the close to P2 billion SIDA budget at its disposal in 2016 has been trimmed to P500 million this year.
The senator said her committee had to step in and exercise its oversight function because SRA’s failure to implement its programs was detrimental to the sugar industry in general and the small farmers and workers in particular.
The SRA determines how the funds for the SIDA programs are used, but it has no capacity to spend its allocations, Villar said.
She called on the sugar industry stakeholders to participate in the Senate inquiry on issues involving the industry. “Bakit nagkaroon ng underspending? Yan ang gusto nating alamin,” Villar said.
SIDA oversees the construction of farm to mill roads, support for the strengthening of block farms of at least 30 hectares formed out of small individual farms, to make them more productive and profitable.
P2 billion is allocated to the industry half of which goes to infrastructure development.
Fifteen percent or P300 million is allocated for block farm grants, 15 percent to research and development (R&D), socialized credits from Land Bank for farm support and mechanization, and five percent or P100 million for scholarship grants & HRD programs.