MANILA, Philippines—Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz urged sugar industry stakeholders to work together in finding solutions to mitigate the possible negative impact on the industry when tariff barriers on agricultural commodities come down in 2015 under the Asean Free Trade Agreement (Afta).
The Afta is a trade agreement among the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to gradually eliminate tariffs and nontariff barriers within the group in order to increase Asean’s competitive edge as a production base and attract more foreign direct investment.
In the case of sugar, tariff on imported sugar will be reduced to five percent by 2015, from 18 percent in 2013.
At a recent meeting with industry stakeholders, Baldoz stressed that there is already a roadmap for the sugar industry that was prepared by the Sugar Regulatory Administration. The goals under this plan are to achieve self-sufficiency in the commodity; the use of sugarcane, sugar and its by-products for bio-fuel (ethanol) production; and power cogeneration.
However, she noted sadly that there was no roadmap for sugar industry workers.
She said the improvement of sugar workers should have been included in the goals of the road map so they will remain working in the industry as essential partners in production.
“For those who cannot remain in the industry, we have to prepare them for alternative employment or livelihood,” Baldoz told the stakeholders.
“The workers should not be left behind. There is a need for us to move as one and fast to replicate or adopt existing successful models,” she said.
Baldoz directed the Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns, the lead DOLE lead agency in the implementation of the Sugar Amelioration Program, to organize a two-day workshop with the sugar industry stakeholders to gather inputs for the formulation of a roadmap for the workers which will be submitted to the President as part of the “sugar industry roadmap.”