The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) has called on all industry stakeholders to help make the Sugarcane Industry Development Act (SIDA) work, so as to face the trade challenges of the impending integration of Southeast Asian economies.
Signed into law by President Benigno Aquino 3rd last April, the SIDA law aims to maximize the country’s sugarcane resources, as a preparation for the upcoming implementation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Economic Community.
“What it takes is for us to get together, making sure that each one of us, with his or her expertise, provide the necessary inputs for the sugarcane industry,” SRA Administrator Ma. Regina Bautista-Martin said during the Strategic Planning Workshop Budget and Programs Review for 2016-2018.
She said the sugarcane industry has “achieved so much for the past five years,” particularly in allaying fears on the reduction of tariff on sugar by 2015.
But she said the sector needs to prepare some more, like by engaging key government agencies involved in the SIDA, including local government units, “to know exactly what we need, the amount of funding to sustain every part of the system, for us to be fully energized moving forward.”
With the theme “Govern and Deliver: Towards Competitiveness and Sustainable Development of the Philippine Sugarcane Industry,” the industry workshop was aimed at discussing proposed inter-agency plans, budgets, and programs for the implementation of the new law, taking into account the Sugarcane Roadmap spearheaded by the SRA.
Under the SIDA, the SRA serves as the conduit of programs proposed by government agencies to be funded by the Department of Budget and Management, through the national government’s “bottoms up” budgeting strategy.
The “block farming” program is the SIDA’s centerpiece, which aims for the operational consolidation of small farms to take advantage of plantation scale production, thus, improving productivity and sugar yield.
Martin, who rallied behind the enactment of SIDA into law, said the block-farming scheme would put back small farms, like those under the Agrarian Reform Program, into plantation size.
She said the SIDA is also aimed at efficiently managing these block farms through precision farming, preventing the displacement of sugarcane workers, and eliminating child labor.
Meanwhile, Sugar Board Member Pablito Sandoval, representing the farmers sector, who was also present during the strategic planning workshop, emphasized the need to come up with a new high-yielding (HYV) variety for sugarcane, which he stressed, can be used for another 20 years.