Pernia: Sugar trade liberalization ‘not high priority yet’
MANILA, Philippines — The state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) has started the study on the proposal to lift import restrictions on sugar even as the country’s chief economist said it was not a high priority.
Neda last month sought consulting services for the conduct of an ex-ante impact assessment of the proposed liberalization of the sugar industry, bidding documents showed.
Even as Neda will embark on the study, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and Neda chief Ernesto M. Pernia told the Inquirer last week that sugar trade liberalization was “not high priority yet.”
Neda had wanted a comprehensive study before it eventually crafts a bill to be pitched to Congress to liberalize sugar trade.
Last July, Neda Undersecretary Rosemarie G. Edillon described the planned six-month study to be “very intensive and extensive.”
According to Edillon, Neda will hire a multidisciplinary group – “you need an economist, an agriculturist, and a sociologist for the social impact” – to undertake the study.
Unlike in the case of rice where there had been many prior studies conducted before the Rice Tariffication Law was pushed in Congress, Edillon had said there was a dearth of academic research about the sugar sector.
Once the study is completed, Neda was eyeing to draft the bill and submit it to Congress early next year, according to Edillon.
Earlier, Pernia said sugar liberalization was among the economic team’s legislative priorities to be pitched for the incoming 18th Congress.
Pernia had said the government was eyeing to allow private users to directly import sugar in a bid to cut costs and bring down domestic retail prices.
At present, local sugar prices were higher than those in neighboring countries despite high demand here, Pernia had noted.
Lower sugar prices were also expected to redound to food manufacturing costs, as sugar is a raw material for a number of processed food items, Edillon had said.
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