About 4,000 displaced sugarcane field workers in Calabarzon would benefit from the more than P79 million worth of livelihood assistance and emergency employment to be provided by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
The workers are from the Central Azucarera Don Pedro, Inc. (CADPI) Sugar Mill, one of Luzon’s biggest raw sugar producers.
The company filed for permanent closure after “experiencing operational and financial challenges within the current conditions affecting the sugar industry in the Batangas area.”
In a statement Thursday, DOLE 4-A (Calabarzon) Director Ma. Karina Perida-Trayvilla assured that the workers would be given due intervention through existing programs of the department.
“We are preparing to provide sustainable livelihood assistance after we hold a dialogue with the affected workers to optimize the use of funds,” she said.
“Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma approved releasing more than P79 million to cover the affected workers for implementing Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa ating Disadvantaged / Displaced Workers (TUPAD) and Livelihood Programs.”
Among the displaced workers, 1,252 will benefit from the TUPAD Program, amounting to P5.8 million worth of wages.
In preparation for its implementation, the DOLE has already oriented the displaced sugarcane workers on basic safety and health and other TUPAD implementation guidelines and procedures.
On the other hand, Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns Director Ahmma Charisma Lobrin-Satumba committed to fast-track the approval of emergency employment and livelihood assistance for the affected workers.
Last month, House Speaker Martin G. Romualdez has vowed to probe the plight of 12,000 sugarcane farm workers from Nasugbu, Batangas affected by the closure of the CADPI sugar mill.
During a meeting at Speaker’s Office, Romualdez listened to the concerns of sugarcane farm workers led by Sugar Folks Unity for Genuine Agricultural Reform Spokesman Christian Bearo, Pagkakaisa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Tubuhan (Pamatu) Batangas First District President Nasiancino Roxas, and others.
Romualdez recognized and expressed appreciation for the important role that farmers play in the country, stressing that their welfare will help ensure the country’s food security.
“We need to improve the plight of our sugarcane farmers and ensure a sufficient supply of sugar. I thank our farmers for working tirelessly for our nation,” said Romualdez.
He added that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has been working very hard to ramp up agricultural production aimed at ensuring food security in the country.
“Thank you (farmers) for your dedication in helping the government attain its plan for food security. We are inspired by your great contribution,” Romualdez said.
This came after the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) authorized the importation of 440,000 metric tons of refined sugar to bring down the price of the sweetener and manage local demand.
The move, some sugar farmer groups said, would only hurt the local industry.
Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) chairperson Ariel Casilao, a former lawmaker, said the government should help revive the operations of CADPI, which has shut down.
“This mill had produced 12,000MT a day, but it closed down because local businessmen have suffered losses along with its owners, the Roxas family,” he said.
Casilao suggested that the government temporarily take over the mill or have a joint operational management contract between the Roxas family and the SRA so it can keep operating.
The Speaker thus phoned Batangas Gov. Hermilando Mandanas and Batangas Rep. Eric Buhain to discuss a possible solution to the CADPI problem, as the farmers listened attentively to their conversation.
Among those present during the meeting were House Majority Leader Manuel Jose M. Dalipe, House Minority Leader Marcelino Libanan, Gabriela Party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas, ACT Teachers Party-list France L. Castro, former Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sara Elago, and others.