By Dominique Gabriel G. Bañaga
The first batch of migrant sugar workers locally known as “sacadas” from Antique arrived in Negros Occidental on Friday, September 3, to signal the start of the milling season.
Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson said the sacadas will work in province’s sugarcane farms during the duration of the sugar milling season that starts September to around March next year.
“The 33 sacadas were swabbed for COVID-19 and will be quarantined in the farm where they will be employed until their test results are out,” Lacson said.
The governor said about 4,000 sugarcane workers are expected to arrive in the province during the milling season.
Asked why sugar planters in Negros need to hire migrant workers from other provinces, Lacson said “it is very difficult to hire cane cutters in Negros Occidental.”
He cited the protocols that these workers from other areas need to follow in order to enter Negros Occidental.
They must be tested for COVID-19, a part of the cost of which is shouldered by the farm owners, Lacson said.
In Antique, the provincial government recorded over 200 sacadas set to leave for Negros Occidental on September 10.
Antique Sacada Desk in-charge Randy Ardeño said five contractors are processing the documents of the workers in preparation for their transport.
These included their registration with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the S-PaSS online travel management system, membership with the Social Security System (SSS), and identification cards.
The sacadas will also undergo RT-PCR tests before they will be brought to the seaport in Dumangas, Iloilo to board a vessel going to Negros Occidental. The cost of the swab test will be shouldered by sugar planters who contracted their services.
“For other contractors, they are being advised to coordinate with the Sacada Desk so we could already process the IDs of the sacadas and their S-Pass,” he said.
Last year, 2,232 Antique sacadas were hired by 63 contractors during the milling season.
The Antique provincial government created a system for the legal deployment of sacadas last year at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic./DGB, WDJ