Resist the neoliberalization of the sugar industry!

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The last few days, the Senate exposed an agreement between the Sugar Regulatory Authority (SRA), Department of Agriculture (DA) and softdrink companies & other companies that produced sugar-based products for the importation of sugar in the country. The deal aims to import 200,000 tons of sugar, due to the alibi that Supertyphoon Odette has affected the country’s sugar output. Sweet as it may seem, the reality of it for the sugar industry, especially in Negros Island, is actually bitter.

The milling season for sugar is still ongoing. Sugar and other sugar-based material outputs through the country’s 27 functioning sugar mills are still continuing. If the deal pushes through, it will adversely affect the prices of local sugar to adjust with the sudden bulk of supply. Once prices of sugar drop locally, most assuredly it will also result to the dwindling of income of sugar mills and other related businesses that will primarily hit sugarcane planters, mill and farm workers, and their families.

Negros Island, dubbed as the ‘sugar capital’ of the Philippines, heavily relies on the sugar industry. The sugarcane monocrop economy supports the 4.64 million population of the region, where most families, including children are involved in jobs as either full-time or seasonal farm workers salaried with measly wages ranging from P150 – P350, tied in the centuries-old hacienda system. The yearly tiempo muerto (off milling season for around 3 months), where income is scarce, has exponentially worsened for the past years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the wrath of Supertyphoon Odette, and intense militarization in Negros.

The US-Duterte regime is subservient to the interest of imperialism and local big bureaucrats and landlords. The import deal is a result of such subservience through the country’s policy of neoliberalization. Sugar liberalization allows the entry of sugar from other countries, which cripples local sugar value and in turn diminishes income as well. Rather than buying into the alibi of the deal is that the sugar industry is affected by Supertyphoon Odette, the reactionary government should aid local planters and farm workers first to help their outputs.

Peasants and workers primarily affected by these kinds of policies should strengthen their unity to collectively resist the neoliberal scheme of sugar importation. As the pillar of the united front against imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism, it is the stronghold of the Filipino people to oppose the imperialist offensive against the country. While NDF-Negros appreciates the initial of various sectors to reject and prevent the importation from proceeding, it also calls on these sectors including sugarcane planters, business owners and politicians to anchor their efforts with the downtrodden majority of farmers and workers.

Off season or not, the importation of sugar will be unfavorable to the Filipino people especially under the worsening crisis of the semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system. Instead of neoliberalization, genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization – primary demands of the NDF if the peace talks have not been encumbered by the bellicose Duterte – should be pushed through, to sustain a people’s economy that is self-sufficient and beneficial to all. ###

Resist the neoliberalization of the sugar industry!