Senator Cynthia Villar presided over the committee hearing looking into the status of the implementation of the law enacted to make sure that more assistance will be available for sugar farmers to boost the industry’s competitiveness.

Villar, chair of the Committee on Agriculture and Food, said Republic Act 10659 or the Sugar Cane Industry Development Act (SIDA) which is the first law she passed as a senator, “is a measure meant to make sure the sugar industry will be able to compete head on against foreign players.”

“I passed the law to boost the sugarcane industry.”

“I passed the law to boost the sugarcane industry which contributes P70 billion to the country’s economy annually. Moreover, an estimated 700,000 Filipinos are directly employed in sugar production. The industry really plays a vital role in the country’s economic development,” the veteran legislator said.

However, four years after the enactment of the law, the seasoned lawmaker expressed dismay over the reported failure of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) to fully implement SIDA, which resulted in the reduction of its budget from P2 billion in 2016 to only P500 million in 2019.

“If left uncorrected, it will result in a budget of only P67 million by 2020.”

The lady senator said the reduction through the years has been the result of underspending, which if left uncorrected will result in a budget of only P67 million by 2020.

This prompted her to file Proposed Senate Resolution No. 40 which directs an inquiry into the reported failure of SRA in the implementation of SIDA.

As part of the oversight function of the committee, Villar is monitoring the efficient implementation of SIDA to ensure that its provisions are really benefitting the intended beneficiaries– the sugarcane farmers, workers, millers, suppliers and other industry players.

“The law as crafted, not only focuses on increasing and improving the yield, we also included programs that will develop the skills of the workers and their dependents through training and capacity-building activities,” she said.

Under the law, P2 billion will be given yearly to the sugar industry to be spent as follows: a) 15 percent or P300 million for block farm grants; b) 15 percent for research and development, capability building and technology transfer; c) 15 percent for socialized credits to be implemented by Land Bank for farm support and mechanization; d) 5 percent or P100 million for scholarship grants and human resources development programs; and e) 50 percent or P1 billion for infrastructure development programs for farm to mill roads, irrigation and transport infrastructure.

“Nakakalungkot dahil napakaraming pwedeng paggamitan ng pondo para matulungan ang mga sugar industry players, lalo na ang mga maliliit na magsasaka,” Villar stressed. “Bakit nagkaroon ng underspending?”

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