More gains at Bicam -Zubiri; Benitez files price probe bid



Thursday, December 7, 2017
BY CARLA P. GOMEZ

Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri said further gains were reached yesterdayfor the sugar industry during the bicameral conference committee's revision of the excise tax on sugar sweetened beverages (SSB).

“It is a great victory for the industry,” he said in a text message.

The bicameral committee,aside from agreeing on PHP6 per liter excise tax forSSBs using sugar, and PHP12 per liter for High Fructose Corn Syrup, also agreed that there will be no more further tax increase for several years, he said.

On Tuesday a further increase in the excise tax set to start next year was also expected in 2023.

Zubirisaid 3-in-1 coffee, which also has a sugar component, will be exempt from the excise tax, Zubiri said.

“We did it! It's PHP 6 for sugar and sugar substitutes and PHP 12 for HFCS. No more increase after how many years and 3-in-1 coffee tax is exempt,” Zubiri said in his text message.

Senator Sonny Angara also said yesterday said thatmilk was also exempt from excise tax.

The sugar industry is grateful to Zubiri and Angara for fighting for it at the bicameral meetings, sugar leader Bernard Trebol said Tuesday.

The bicameral conference committee is tasked with reconciling the Lower House and Senate versions of the proposed Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act, that includes the SSB excise tax.

Rep. Alfredo Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3 rd District) yesterday also filed a resolution in the House, calling on the appropriate committee to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation, into the continuous drop in the mill gate prices of domestic sugar.

The resolution cited the continuous decline in mill gate sugar starting September 2017, dropping by 26 percent to PHP 1,190 per 50 kilogram bag as of Nov. 5 from PHP1,618 in the same period last year.

The Sugar Regulatory Administration also noted that the wholesale prices of sugar also declined by 21 percent to PHP 1,500 per Lkg for raw sugar, 18 percent to PHP 1,700 for washed sugar, and 15 percent to PHP PHP2,000 for refined sugar, Benitez said.

Benitez noted that sugar industry stakeholders have warned government of an impending crisis with the continuing decline of mill gate prices, that will have an adverse effect on sugar workers.

He also noted that the Negros Farmworkers and Agrarian Reform Beneficiary Producers Federation members have protested that they will not survive the low mill gate prices of sugar.

The stakeholders are calling for an investigation to identify the reasons why the mill gate prices continue to drop while the retail prices of sugar remain the same, Benitez added.

The industry alleges that price manipulation by a possible cartel, smuggling and increasing importation of HFCS are causing the drastic decrease in sugar prices, he said.

He added that is the duty of the state to promote the improvement of local industries enhance agricultural competitiveness, and uphold the welfare of local agricultural workers.

Manuel Lamata, president of the United Sugar Producers Federation of the Philippines, said Tuesday that recent developments have caused a gradual increase in mill gate prices, that are at PHP 1,300 per Lkg now.*CPG