CITY OF SAN FERNANDO — With the war already being waged against the Rice Liberalization Law, yet another battle has been launched, this time against plans to also liberalize the importation of sugar.
The Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) said yesterday stakeholders in the sugar industry have formed the Tanggol Asukal Network whose “main aim is to create a mass movement against sugar import liberalization.”
UMA chair Antonio Flores said his group formed the group together with the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) and other stakeholders in the sugar industry “to solidify our voices into one and call on the economic managers of the Duterte administration to totally abandon their plan to implement sugar import liberalization.”
The network was formed in a recent gathering attended mostly by sugar workers and small planters from Batangas, Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, Negros, Cebu, and Bukidnon. It is expected to establish supporting groups in Cagayan Valley, Flores said.
Flores noted that the network is also backed by the Federation of Free Workers, the Church Workers Solidarity (CWS), Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, Center for Trade Union and Human Rights, Amihan, Sugar Regulatory Administration, Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns, and the Institute for Labor Studies.
CWS chair Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of the Diocese of San Carlos sent a “solidarity message” in support of the move against sugar liberalization.
Flores said Alminaza “raised the concern that the proposed unlimited liberalization of the sugar industry will only worsen the already dire living condition of farmers and farm workers and their families.”
“Liberalization will only destroy the local sugar industry, leading to loss of livelihood and jobs of local farmers and agricultural workers just like what happened to rice, garlic and onion farmers. Farmer incomes and wages of farm workers are expected to be reduced further as price of local sugar will drop at the lowest price to compete with sugar coming in from other countries,” Alminaza warned.
Flores said those who joined the network have vowed to “launch a wide range of activities and mass actions until the sugar importation liberalization plan is scrapped.”