Juan Miguel Zubiri, who lost his Senate bid in the May 13 polls, yesterday called on those who won to help the sugar industry find ways to mitigate the impact of the lifting of tariffs on imported sugar entering the country by 2015 under the ASEAN Free Trade Area agreement.
“I challenge those who won, especially the new ones, to keep their promises,” said Zubiri in Bacolod City at his first press conference since the elections.
They should adopt drastic measures to help the country’s sugar farmers survive beyond 2015, he said, pointing out that five million Filipinos are directly and indirectly dependent on the country’s sugar industry.
Concern has been raised that the entry of tariff-free highly-subsidized cheap imported sugar into the country could badly hurt local sugar farmers.
“If I had won, that would have been my number one priority in the Senate,” he said.
The challenge now is for the congressmen of Negros and the sugar blocs to unite and to lobby to senators who are friendly to Negros Occidental to help find solutions so the sugar industry will not die, he said.
Zubiri said he was in Bacolod to thank the people of Negros Occidental for the support they gave him in the last election.
None of the winning senators have come to Negros Occidental yet to thank the people for their votes.
Poll results showed Zubiri at number five in Negros Occidental and number eight in Bacolod City among the winning senators.
“I would like to thank the people of Negros Occidental and Bacolod City for their help, they gave me my best showing in the whole country, outside of Mindanao,” he said.
On May 13, he was the number one winning senator in Kabankalan City, EB Magalona, Isabela, Cauayan, Ilog and Himamaylan, Zubiri said.
His father, BukidnonGovernor-elect Jose Ma. Zubiri Jr., isfrom Kabankalan City.
“I will forever be in your debt and forever thankful and supportive of plans and programs for Negros Occidental, especially the sugar industry,” he said.
He also thanked the Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations and other sugar groups for their support.
“Unfortunately in this election, popularity won rather than performance…I think people wanted to be more excited with these new faces so the priority was given to them,” he said.
Zubiri said that while he did well in Mindanao, he attributed his loss to poor showing in Luzon and lack of enough expected support in the Visayas, except for Negros Occidental.
The last election made him more spiritual and he accepts the outcome of the polls as God’s will, Zubiri said. I believe since God did not allow me to win, He has other plans for me, he said.
In 2016, Zubiri said he may run for national office again or opt to concentrate on helping Vice President Jejomar Binay in his bid for the presidency.
“Hopefully, he’ll be able give me an executive position in his administration,” Zubiri said.
In the next three years, he said he will concentrate on his business by setting up ice plants in Bukidnon and other parts of Mindanao, his Z Gas gasoline stations, and putting up a business in Kabankalan City, Zubiri said.
When he returns to public service, at least, he will be financially stable and his family will be well taken care of, he added.*CPG