Over the past decade, the Philippine sugar industry has been facing multiple challenges resulting from the break-up of farm holdings due to the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) leading to decreased productivity inherent in small-sized farms which have little financial capability to cultivate their farms to its full potential. Directly related to this are the sugar mills which are also struggling to improve their efficiencies to remain competitive in the world market while experiencing low recoveries of their investments.
Since the revised implementation of the SIFI Livelihood Program in 2014, the focus was on capacitating and strengthening of sugar farm ARB organizations resulting in sustainable enterprises and improved market linkages. Seeing that the outcomes were favorable to the sugar worker beneficiaries, SIFI decided to expand its livelihood assistance to its mill partners in 2020.
In order to fully understand the plight of the mills and apply appropriate livelihood interventions and trainings, SIFI Livelihood Officer Cristina May Poblador and Training Officer Angelica Hebionada conducted visits and interviews to the sugar mills in Negros Occidental province. She spoke with HR managers, representatives from labor unions and obtained profiles of the target beneficiaries.
The mills visited were First Farmers Holding Corp. (FFHC) in Talisay on January 24, 2020, followed by Central Azucarera de La Carlota Inc. (CACI) in La Carlota last January 27, 2020. The 3rd schedule was in 2 mills wherein Hawaiian Philippine Co. (HPCO), Silay City and Victorias Milling Co. (VMC), Victorias City were visited last January 29, 2020. Another one was on January 30 in Lopez Central and Sagay Central, Inc and lastly, the visits were held in URC-Sonedco in Kabankalan and BISCOM in Binalbagan last February 3, 2020.
Overall, the mill visits confirmed that their labor union groups are viable and qualified for livelihood assistance by SIFI. This assistance will be timely given the pandemic situation we are in and how it will impact all sugar workers. Subsequent trainings will need to focus on income augmentation, social preparedness and project sustainability.
FIRST FARMERS HOLDING CORPORATION (FFHC)
CENTRAL AZUCARERA DE LA CARLOTA INC. (CACI)
HAWAIIAN PHILIPPINE COMPANY (HPCO)
VICTORIAS MILLING COMPANY (VMC)