Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito-Estrada yesterday said he is opposing the Bureau of Internal Revenue's imposition of Value Added Tax on raw sugar, pointing out that it will further jeopardize the country's sugar industry.
Ejercito-Estrada, who was in Silay City last night to induct the Negros Occidental and Western Visayas officers of the Vice Mayors' League of the Philippines, said he will study the BIR's revised revenue regulation and take the matter up in the Senate.
He said the sugar industry needs all the help it can get to survive 2015 when tariffs on cheap imports drop to a nominal five percent, as part of the ASEAN Free Trade Area agreement.
“I think that the BIR is being harsh with the sugar industry which is already suffering with the advent of the 2015 AFTA…I will study the matter because, in effect, it is only muscovado now that is exempted from VAT. This will really be detrimental and a big black eye to the sugar industry,” Ejercito-Estrada said.
Ejercito-Estrada said that he has made a commitment to help the sugar industry because it is the backbone of Negros. “Negros is my second home, being the birthplace of my mother,” pointed out.
His mother is San Juan Mayor Guia Gomez, who is a Negrense.
Ejercito-Estrada said he has filed Senate Bill No. 1229, or an act strengthening the sugar industry by establishing a Sugarcane Industry Development Fund, which is a counterpart to the bill filed by Rep. Alfredo Abelardo Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3 rd District) in the Lower House.
The senator is hopeful that with similar bills moving in both houses of Congress at the same time, the measure geared towards aiding the sugar industry will be approved in the 16 th Congress.
His bill had been approved on first reading and referred to the Senate committees on Agriculture and Food, Government Corporations and Public Enterprises, Ways and Means, and Finance.
Ejercito-Estrada , in his explanatory note to Senate Bill No. 1229, said it is incumbent on the county's policymakers to institute measures, both by legislation and executive implementation, for specific programs and projects that will cushion if not counter the possible destabilization effects of the 2015 tariff drop.
The bill aims to revitalize and strengthen the sugarcane industry through a diversification, development, and financing program, promoting the interests of sugarcane farmers/planters, mills workers and consumers as well as contributing to the food security objectives of the national government, he said
Specifically, programs and projects to diversify sugarcane production involving not only raw and refined sugar but also its by-products namely bagasse, molasses and filter mud, among others, should be identified, developed, promoted and implemented starting 2013, he said.
Additionally, funding for these programs and projects should be assured through the establishment of a Sugarcane Development Fund, he added.
Inducted by Ejercito-Estrada last night were the Western Visayas VMLP officers, led by Pavia Vice Mayor Raymundo Gumban, and the Negros Occidental VMLP, led by Silay VM Mark Golez.
Other Negros Occidental VMLP officers are Neil Lizares of Talisay City – vice president, Greg Gasataya of Bacolod – secretary general, Chad Feria of La Castellana – treasurer, Gerry Rojas of Murcia – public information officer, and Delia Anacan of Kabankalan City – auditor.
Members of the board are Leonardo Quisumbing – San Carlos City, first district, Narwin Javelosa – Sagay City, second district, Rex Depasucat – EB Magalona, third district, Nicholas Yulo – Bago City, fourth district, Carmenia Bascon – Himamaylan City, fifth district, and Gina Lizares – Sipalay City, sixth district.
In his message at the induction ceremony at the Silay City Civic Center, Ejercito-Estrada said he will do everything to support the towns and cities of Negros Occidental.
Golez, who is the president of the VMLP-Negros Occidental Chapter, is his best friend, number one supporter and classmate, he said.*CPG