Compensation from CADPI and DA sought
Representatives of more than 12,000 sugar farm workers and small planters affected by the abrupt closure of Central Azucarera de Don Pedro Inc. (CADPI) in Nasugbu, Batangas led a protest outside the Roxas Holdings Inc. (RHI) this morning. RHI which operates CADPI, is an integrated sugar company that is part of the Metro Pacific Group’s expanding ventures in agriculture.
The distressed sugar farm workers and small planters of CADPI, one of Luzon’s biggest raw sugar producers dumped rotting sugarcane that they were not able to mill due to CADPI’s permanent closure.
The company filed for permanent closure last December 15 after “experiencing operational and financial challenges affecting the sugar industry in the Batangas area.” The closure has affected 10,980 hectares of sugarcane areas and left 4,584 sugarcane planters bankrupt.
The sugar farm workers and small sugar planters are demanding economic immediate aid from CADPI and the government as the closure rendered them jobless for nearly three months. They are also pressing for the reopening of the sugar mill instead of depending on sugar imports.
The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura, National Federation of Sugar Workers, and KMP support the demand of sugar workers and planters for CADPI and the Department of Agriculture (DA) to compensate them for their losses brought about by the sugar mill’s non-operation.
According to John Milton “Ka Butch” Lozande, spokesperson of UMA and Secretary General of NFSW, CADPI has existing milling contracts with its planters and also has agreements for hauling services to transport sugarcane from plantations to the milling facilities. Sugar farm workers who cut and load sugarcane from the fields to the milling facilities have been jobless since December. The RHI Agri-Business Development Corporation (RADC) also entered into crop loan and contract growing agreements with various sugar planters who are not yet paid due to the mill closure.
In a dialogue with DA Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban on Feb. 15, he stated that through funding from the Batangas LGU and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), 60 to 70 truckloads of sugarcane from Batangas can be milled at the Central Azucarera de Tarlac. However, this promise wasn’t fulfilled. CADPI sugar farm workers and planters are demanding that the said fund be used for compensation for their losses.
The groups also criticized the non-stop importation and smuggling of sugar, with the latest Sugar Order instructing the importation of some 440,000 metric tons of sugar. “The government should support local sugar farmers and planters instead of relying on sugar imports,” according to KMP’s Danilo Ramos.