Ledesma: We have suffered enough in the past two years
By Dominique Gabriel G. Bañaga
The Confederation of Sugar Producers (Confed) in Negros and Panay called on lawmakers to “correct” the budget cut on the Sugar Industry Development Act, which saw funding drop from P2 billion to P500 million.
Confed chairman Nicholas Ledesma yesterday said, based on Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) records, the budget cut should not have happened because SIDA utilization reached P1.2 billion last year, majority of which went to infrastructure and scholarships.
He pointed out, only funds for socialized credit had been underutilized, blaming it on a “stringent process” that made it difficult for small farmers to access.
“With the recent abolition of Philsucor (Philippine Sugar Corporation), we are pressed to appeal that socialized credit availability must be made more simpler for small farmers and agrarian reform beneficiaries, [which] comprise almost 90 percent of sugar producers, and for whom the SIDA Law was intended to make the sugar industry more competitive,” Ledesma said.
Earlier, Senator Cynthia Villar, who chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture, said the annual P2 billion SIDA allocation was reduced to P500 million for next year “due to under spending or underutilization.”
According to the senator, who was present for the Pintaflores Festival in San Carlos City last Monday, the Department of Budget and Management reduced the SIDA funds allocation because the agencies involved in utilizing financial allocations did not have the capacity to fully spend the amount.
Ledesma said the budget cut would have a “drastic effect on the industry’s tract to hasten mechanization as a priority for this year as well.”
He also called for the budget for research and development to remain intact and appealed for SRA to be more aggressive in program implementation or to create a desk solely devoted to SIDA and making it more accessible.
In addition, the Confed chair stressed the need for an oversight committee to ensure programs are workable and addressing the needs of farmers.
“We have suffered enough in the past two years,” Ledesma stressed. “Give the industry our due.”
The SIDA law, authored by Negros Occidental third district Rep. Alfredo Benitez, co-authored by Villar and co-sponsored by Senator JV Ejercito Estrada in the Senate, was passed into law three years ago.
The law sought to boost the production of sugarcane and sugar; and increase incomes for sugarcane farmers, planters, and workers./DGB, WDJ