MANILA, Philippines – Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri slammed the Sugar Regulatory Authority (SRA) for continuing the exportation of sugar to the United States, amid a local shortage and pressures to liberalize the industry.
In a Senate hearing on Monday, September 30, Zubiri said the sugar to be shipped out can instead be given to local companies, rather than end users importing the commodity from other countries.
"Can we not export anymore to the US? Because it is not a treaty that is binding," Zubiri said during the budget deliberations of the Department of Agriculture.
"Why come up with an order like that which is contrary to what we need to do, which is to keep our local production here and give it cheaply to the end users?" he added.
WATCH: Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri and Cynthia Villar want the Philippines to stop exporting sugar to the United States. They also pointed out the negative impact of the liberalization of the sugar industry to farmers. @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/hjlVc6tNXW — Ralf Rivas (@RalfRivas) September 30, 2019
The Philippines exports around 10% of its total sugar output to the US.
Meanwhile, Senate agriculture committee chairperson Cynthia Villar questioned why the SRA had given import permits to traders and not processors.
Villar echoed Zubiri's assertions that companies should be given authority to directly import, creating a tighter and efficient link in the overall production line.
Zubiri also opposed calls to deregulate the sugar industry and warned that it would negatively affect farmers, similar to what has happened to rice farmers under rice tariffication. (READ: Farmers seek floor price as palay sells for just P7 per kilo)
Zubiri, whose family has business interests in the sugar industry, said that some 5 million families would lose jobs.
Finance Undersecretary and Chief Economist Gil Beltran previously said that reforms are needed to introduce competition in the sugar industry.
"Quantitative restrictions need to be replaced by tariffs and safeguard measures [for subsidized products] to allow for more transparent, competitive pricing and allow downstream industries to become more viable and grow as fast as their ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) counterparts," Beltran said. – Rappler.com