By MAJOY SISCAR
MANILA – The country’s sugar workers called on Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to reopen the Central Azucarera de Don Pedro, Inc. (CADPI) in Nasugbu, Batangas instead of pushing for the Brazil-based sugar mill services in an effort to boost the country’s sugar supply and ethanol production.
In a statement, the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) said that CADPI can mill 12,000 megatonnes of sugar cane a day while the nearest mill, URC SURE in Balayan, Batangas can only mill 4,500 to 5,100 megatonnes of sugar cane a day.
“The closure of CADPI this crop year during the milling season would result in the possible bankruptcy of 4,584 sugarcane planters and fewer earnings for the more than 10,000 sugarcane field workers,” NFSW secretary general John Milton Lozande said.
Earlier this month, Marcos Jr. said that Brazilian firm DATAGRO, which proposed to pilot test in Negros and Panay, covering plots of 1,000, 5,000, and 10,000 hectares, will be assisting the country’s sugar industry as part of the government’s supposed long-term program to increase its production and profitability.
“Essentially, the government should support the sugar industry and Philippine agriculture and not rely on so-called independent agricultural consulting firms like DATAGRO, and sugar and other agricultural products importation which will destroy Philippine agriculture,” NSFW said in their statement.
Too little funds
The NFSW also underscored that there are too few funds to help small sugar workers.
So far, the labor department has reportedly offered to provide a P80-million aid to some 4,000 workers and small sugar planters. But the NFSW said this will only cover a fraction of the total sugar workers and planters, saying that in the CAPDI mill district alone, there are already 4,229 planters owning at least five hectares of land each.
“It should provide wage subsidies to all sugar workers involved in sugar production and compensation for any losses the planters may suffer, especially the small planters,” said the NFSW.
More government subsidies needed
The NFSW said the Philippine government must subsidize the production of small sugar workers.
Lozande said that production cost has increased by over 200 percent, particularly for fertilizers. He added that there are also lesser agricultural lands dedicated to sugarcane production due to land-use conversion, just 384,987 hectares this crop year (CY) from 424,132 has. in CY 2012 – 2013.
The NFSW said, “essentially, the government should support the sugar industry and Philippine agriculture and not rely on a so-called independent agricultural consulting firm like DATAGRO, and sugar and other agricultural products importation which will destroy Philippine agriculture.” (JJE)