Duterte’s TRAIN to Exacerbate Crisis in Philippine Sugar Industry


President Duterte’s Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law is expected to exacerbate the crisis in the Philippine Sugar Industry.

This will surely lead to further impovershipment of sugar field and mill workers. A genuine agrarian reform program and national industrialization are the only remedies for the ailing industry and for ensuring the growth of the Philippine economy that will benefit the Filipino people.

In the first place, the more than 780,000 field and 25,000 mill workers in the sugar industry are already exempted from paying income tax and would not benefit from TRAIN. This is especially true for the former, who only earn an average of P50,000 annually or around P4,000/month.

Instead, the effect of TRAIN will be an added burden to them because its provisions will increase the Value Added Tax (VAT) on low cost housing, gasoline products including LPG and sugary drinks.

This will lower the consumption of sugar, which will further decrease sugarworkers’ already low wages. This may even lead to dismissal from their jobs especially in the next cropping season starting October this year.

The TRAIN is just one of the many neoliberal policies followed by Duterte and previous governments that favor the interests of big foreign businesses over those of the Filipino working people.

TRAIN was recommended by the Partnership for Growth (PFG) of the US with the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce (JFCC) to the US-Duterte regime. This to make a comprehensive tax reform in order to lower the corporate income tax and individual taxable income, while increasing the  VAT, ACT (alcohol, cigarretes and tobacco), and fuel excise tax. It would lower or take away small taxes and other fees that increase the costs of businesses.

TRAIN also compounded the ill effects of neoliberal policies implemented during the Aquino administration, which reduced the tariff for imported sugarcane from 38% in 2011 to just 5% in December 2015.

 This has increased the importation of cheaper cane sugar and sugar substitutes like HFCS and bioethanol.

 Last year, even hacienderos planting sugarcanes experienced losses due to the entry of  High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) into the country. These were used primarily by softdrink giants, Coke and Pepsi, causing the price of sugarcane to go down.

At the start of the present Crop Year (CY) 2017-18, the mill gate price of sugar on September 2017 was only P1,370/Lkg. or for every 50 kilos. This was much lower than last year’s CY 2016-2017 which was P1,800/Lkg.

This even further diminished to just P1,175/Lkg at the end of December 2017, even when the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) issued out Sugar Order No. 3 on February 2017 in order to discourage the importation of HFCS.

From January to July 2017, the Philippines also imported 132 million liters of bioethanol from the US, an increase of 25% during the same period in 2016. Majority of the latter up to now is still imported from the US even if it can be produced locally from sugar and mollasses.

The failure of past administrations to truly uplift the socio-economic situation of sugarworkers all over the country has given the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) reason to believe that it is only through genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization can the sugar industry be salvaged from crisis. It also through such pro-people programs can we ensure economic development for all.

It is clear that sugarworkers cannot rely on the US-Duterte regime to attain any kind of progress. Thus, the NFSW will continue to expand its land cultivation areas (LCAs) in all of the haciendas nationwide. NFSW is steadfast in improving the economic well-being of sugar workers through raising their political consciousness, strenghtening their ranks, and continuing their struggles based on their collective efforts in order to dismantle the semi-feudal reign of big hacienderos, millers, and traders.



The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) vehemently opposes the US-Duterte regime’s devious ploys to amend the Constitution either through a Conventional Assembly (Con-ass) or Constitutional Convention (Con-con).

Eager and desperate to fast-track Charter Change (Cha-cha), Duterte’s lapdogs rabidly push for a Con-ass to ensure the complete opening up of the country’s economy to foreign capitalist monopoly and wholesale auctioning of its people’s socio-political rights to the highest imperialist bidder, to say the least.

This basically sums up the harrowing provisions in the Resolution of Both Houses No. 8 (RBH 8), already on its 2nd reading in the Lower House, and its main reference document, the PDP-LABAN Proposed Federal Constitution that was given to the House but not filed in Congress.

Under the guise of redistributing wealth and giving autonomy to other regions, the proposed constitution grants Duterte unrestrained powers, acting both the executive and legislative arm until the First Federal Congress convenes. It also limits people’s political rights to suffrage instead of direct participation–which has overthrown tyrannical and corrupt regimes before.

Both proposals are a frontal attack to farmers and agricultural workers’ rights. They either completely scrap any mention of a genuine agrarian reform program or provide a loophole for transnational corporations’ plunder with the nifty insertion of “unless otherwise provided by law” placed after provisions that supposedly aim to serve national sovereignty and interest.

With a President hungry for power and members of Congress wanting to secure their political positions and economic interests, Cha-cha is being rammed through the legislative process and right through the people’s throats, just as it was with TRAIN and the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao.

If this is allowed to pass, the constitution will legitimize massive landgrabbing through onerous and exploitative contracts such as agribusiness venture agreements (AVAs) and unabated use and control of our natural resources. This will undoubtedly worsen the socio-economic situation of agricultural workers, farmers and indigenous people and lock them into further impoverishment.

With the possibility of a no-election scenario looming in 2019 were the new constitution ratified, Duterte’s dictatorship will come into its fullest manifestation.

After more than a year, Duterte has unabashedly exposed himself as the exemplary lapdog-fascist-dictator that imperialist countries, TNCs, and bureaucrat capitalists have long desired and waited for.

Thus, it is imperative that UMA together with its members, allies and broad masses rise up and fight the intensifying onslaught on our national democracy, sovereignty and socio-political rights until we completely isolate and overthrow the fascist US-Duterte regime.






Presidential Term Extension Unacceptable to Agricultural Workers

The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) today stated that it is against a presidential and even House extension of terms in the guise of a transitory period in the shift to a federal system of government.

According to UMA Secretary General John Milton “Butch” Lozande, it seems that the shift to another system of government is nothing more than an excuse for President Duterte and his allies to stay in power longer than that is allowed by law.

Essentially this is to form a tyrannical government which the President is craving for together with his rubber stamp allies in Congress.  As this will retain their political and economic interests, which includes expansion of plantations to 1.6 million hectares more, most of which would be in Mindanao.

A proposed referendum in May for a federal system of government together with the barangay elections will not have a hard time pushing through. As this would be supported by most of the Congressmen who have political clout in their respective districts all over the country and by the prevailing martial law in Mindanao and threat of a crackdown on dissent nationwide which would ensure that this would not be tolerated.

UMA Sec. Gen. Butch Lozande said, on the other hand, that the proposed referendum in May would also be an opportunity for all progressive forces in the country, including UMA to raise national issues to the general public.

This includes the effect of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) on the increase in prices of transportation and basic necessities; expansion of plantations through land grabbing of multinational corporations and landlords on peasant lands and national minorities ancestral lands; continued killings of suspected drug addicts, pushers and those advocating for land, labor, and human rights; and among others continuing suppression of national democratic rights of the people including the continuation of martial law in Mindanao and threat of crackdown on all critics nationwide.

UMA can rely on its members nationwide and with other allied organizations under the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) to carry this out and strengthen itself against the evil designs to form a tyrannical government in whatever guise that the powers that be would like to foster.


(Photo Courtesy of Rappler.com)