Social enterprise sector wants ‘zero tariff’ implementation postponed

October 20, 2012 5:35 am 

By G. M. dela Cruz

TALISAY CITY, Negros Occidental, Oct 19 — Groups advocating for social enterprise here are pressing for the postponement to 2015 of the zero-tariff on imported sugar under the Asean Free Trade Agreement (AFTA.

Makabayan Coalition party-list Rep. Teddy Casino said that effecting zero tariff on the imported commodity will kill the country's sugar industry.

Casino noted that some 59,600 farm workers are expected to be directly affected by the AFTA zero tariff regime in 2015 and majority of the farmers are in Negros provinces. The province accounts for 57 percent in the total domestic sugar production, he said.

“The country’s sugar industry will be bludgeoned by the influx of cheap imported sugar (from Australia and Thailand) under the AFTA by 2015," Casino said, adding that a zero tariff on sugar imports will endanger the lives and livelihood of sugar farmers, farm workers and planters.

Casino said the government must protect the local industries and enterprises, for at a minimum, he said is imperative that all the stakeholders should work for the postponement of the AFTA targets and strengthens our own sugar industry.

“The government must impose subsidy on the farmers' income and their livelihood,” Casino said.

Under the AFTA- Common Effective Preferential Tariff (CEPT), tariff on imported sugar will go lower and tariff rates on sugar from competing ASEAN countries will be gradually reduced, said Jay Lacsama, executive director of the Foundation of Sustainable Society and Co-convener of the Poverty Reduction through Social Entrepreneurship Coalition.

Lacsamana added that by 2012, the duty on ASEAN sugar will go down to 28 percent, 18 percent by 2013, 10 percent by 2014, and five percent by 2015.

“The social enterprise sector rallies government, the private sector and civil society organization to come together and collectively cushion the negative impacts of the ASEAN Free Trade Area-Common Effective Preferential Treatment),” Lacsama added.

He noted that their cause and advocacy for social entrepreneurship already proved successful in Negros.

“It has transformed small cane farmers into entrepreneurs who are now managing sustainable enterprises and are into diversified farming,” he said.

Ted Lopez, executive director of Alter Trade Foundation Inc., said that the formula to the ill-effects of the AFTA zero tariff is fair trade mainstreaming and social entrepreneurship. (PNA)

CTB/AJP/GMC/VLO

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