Press Release
March 18, 2016


NEGROS OCCIDENTAL--As the dry spell continues to take its toll on the sugar industry, leading presidential candidate Sen. Grace Poe vowed to give the P2 billion mandated by law to help the country's sugar farmers.

Poe, who brought her campaign to Bacolod Friday, said her "Gobyernong may Puso" will also increase infrastructure support for the local sugar industry by building more agro-industrial zones and shared facilities to aid the processing and marketing of products.

"'Yung mga taniman, yung mga naaani, babagsak doon, bibilhin doon, o may mga shared facilities or byproducts from crops that can actually be processed there. And the farmers that will be displaced (by mechanization) can be the ones working in these agro-industrial zones," she said in an interview in Bacolod.

Poe, who remains the voters' top pick for president, also promised steady funding for the Sugarcane Industry Development Act of 2015 (SIDA), if she wins. The law requires P2 billion a year starting 2016 to increase the competitiveness of the local sugar industry.

"Importante that the funding in the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) is kept steady. We would like to maintain P2 billion and then incrementally increase it to be able to help the farmers particularly during the dead season, 'pag walang harvest," Poe said.

Under the SIDA, the Philippine Sugar Corporation and the SRA are tasked to ensure that the P2-billion fund will be used as specified under the law: 50 percent for infrastructure support, including irrigation; 15 percent for block farms; 15 percent for socialized credit; 15 percent for research and development; and 5 percent for scholarship grants.

The SIDA aims to improve farm productivity and sugar yield of Filipino farmers, especially amid lower tariffs on imported sugar under the ASEAN Economic Community.

More than half of Negros Occidental's agricultural land is planted to sugarcane, making the province the Philippines' top sugar producer, contributing over half of the country's total production.

However, the Negros Island region has been identified as the most high-risk area for El Niño in the Visayas, with the dry spell seen to affect the region until 2018, according to the country's weather bureau.

January 2016 figures from the SRA showed that P99.5 million worth of sugarcane crops have been damaged due to El Nino and 7,372 hectares of sugarcane plantation are rendered unproductive by drought. This affects around 8,000 farmers.

Aside from providing institutional support, Poe said the focus of government efforts should be towards building resilience and environmental sustainability, as well as strengthening crop insurance programs and affordable loan mechanisms.

Poe and her running mate Sen. Francis Escudero are in Negros Occidental with the senatorial bets of their coalition, Partido Galing at Puso. They met with local officials and multi-sectoral groups.

In 2013, Poe garnered 451,366, making her the province's top choice for senator.

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