Govt consults stakeholders on use of P2-B sugar fund

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BACOLOD CITY: The Sugar Regulatory Administration is consulting sugar industry stakeholders on how to use the P2 billion set aside under the Sugarcane Industry Development Act (SIDA), according to SRA Administrator Rosario Ann Paner.

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“We need to clarify with Mill District Development Councils (MDCCs) their strategic role in the implementation of SIDA,” she said last week.

Paner added that the MDDCs must identify infrastructure projects and come up with proposals, which the SRA is urging them to fast-track, to ensure that the entire amount allotted for the industry is spent.

The SIDA is very timely because it is meant to strengthen the country’s sugar industry to be competitive and survive any onslaught, she said.

Senator Cynthia Villar, chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food and one of the authors of the development act, said it requires a P2-billion annual allocation to enable the industry to remain competitive amid trade liberalization and numerous other threats.

This year, the Department of Budget and Management allocated P1.5 billion for the industry because of under-spending the previous year, she noted.

If the industry “underspends the P2 billion annually, the government practice is to reduce the amount in the succeeding allocation,” the senator explained.

The allocation is 50 percent for infrastructure, 15 percent for block farms, 15 percent for socialized credit, 15 percent for research and development and five percent for scholarships for children of sugar farmers, Villar said.

The senator added that of the industry’s annual budget, 65 percent should be allocated for the Negros provinces, which produce 65 percent of the country’s sugar.

EUGENE Y. ADIONG

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