Labor groups raise sugar crisis and labor contracting in protest

CEBU. The Alyansa sa mga Mamumuo sa Sugbo-Kilusang Mayo Uno (AMA Sugbo-KMU) and Alsa Kontraktwal hold a protest rally outside the Central Visayas Ministry of Agriculture office in Barangay Maguikay Mandaue City on Monday, August 29, 2022. ( Honey Cotejo)

CEBU.  The Alyansa sa mga Mamumuo sa Sugbo-Kilusang Mayo Uno (AMA Sugbo-KMU) and Alsa Kontraktwal hold a protest rally outside the Central Visayas Ministry of Agriculture office in Barangay Maguikay Mandaue City on Monday, August 29, 2022. ( Honey Cotejo)

CEBU. The Alyansa sa mga Mamumuo sa Sugbo-Kilusang Mayo Uno (AMA Sugbo-KMU) and Alsa Kontraktwal hold a protest rally outside the Central Visayas Ministry of Agriculture office in Barangay Maguikay Mandaue City on Monday, August 29, 2022. ( Honey Cotejo)

CEBU.  The Alyansa sa mga Mamumuo sa Sugbo-Kilusang Mayo Uno (AMA Sugbo-KMU) and Alsa Kontraktwal hold a protest rally outside the Central Visayas Ministry of Agriculture office in Barangay Maguikay Mandaue City on Monday, August 29, 2022. ( Honey Cotejo)

CEBU. The Alyansa sa mga Mamumuo sa Sugbo-Kilusang Mayo Uno (AMA Sugbo-KMU) and Alsa Kontraktwal hold a protest rally outside the Central Visayas Ministry of Agriculture office in Barangay Maguikay Mandaue City on Monday, August 29, 2022. ( Honey Cotejo)

CEBU.  The Alyansa sa mga Mamumuo sa Sugbo-Kilusang Mayo Uno (AMA Sugbo-KMU) and Alsa Kontraktwal hold a protest rally outside the Central Visayas Ministry of Agriculture office in Barangay Maguikay Mandaue City on Monday, August 29, 2022. ( Honey Cotejo)

CEBU. The Alyansa sa mga Mamumuo sa Sugbo-Kilusang Mayo Uno (AMA Sugbo-KMU) and Alsa Kontraktwal hold a protest rally outside the Central Visayas Ministry of Agriculture office in Barangay Maguikay Mandaue City on Monday, August 29, 2022. ( Honey Cotejo)

MEMBERS of labor groups held a protest rally in the city of Mandaue, Cebu to call on the administration of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to address the issues plaguing ordinary Filipino citizens.

The activity was held in front of the Ministry of Agriculture office in Barangay Maguikay, Mandaue City on Monday, August 29, 2022, and was attended by around 100 people from the Alyansa sa mga Mamumuo sa Sugbo-Kilusang Mayo Uno working groups (AMA Sugbo-KMU), Alsa Kontraktwal and other advocacy groups.

Jaime Paglinawan, chairman of AMA Sugbo-KMU, said they organized the protest to demand an amendment to the 2023 draft national budget, resolve the sugar crisis and abolish labor contracting, among others.

Paglinawan and his group said they wanted the administration to allocate more funds for building houses for the poor and more classrooms in public schools.

He said based on the data, there are about 6.5 million pesos of backlogs in the country and 91,000 classroom shortages in areas hit by Typhoon Odette on December 16, 2021.

The group questioned the proposed national budget of 5.268 billion pesos for 2023 submitted by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to Congress on Monday, August 22, stressing that it focuses more on the continuation of the program. Build Build Build (BBB) ​​of the Duterte administration, which he called less important.

The budget for the BBB program amounts to about 400 billion pesos, while the funds for housing and education only amount to about 15.5 billion pesos in total, Paglinawan said.

They also called on the national government to withdraw the additional funds to be given to the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) amounting to around 20 billion pesos from the proposed budget.

They accused the agency of being solely responsible for red-labeling and silencing advocacy groups, calling them “terrorists” for voicing the country’s real issues.

The NTF-Elcac was organized by the government to respond to and raise awareness of the communist insurgency in the country.

Paglinawan also pointed out that importing sugar will not solve the current sugar crisis.

Earlier, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and industry stakeholders agreed to import up to 150,000 metric tons (MT) of sugar to address the local supply shortage.

Paglinawan said the government should instead boost the country’s local production.

Protesters also urged Congress to pass the Makabayan union’s pending Bill 406, providing a production subsidy of about 15,000 pesos to sugar and other agricultural workers.

Paglinawan said the cash aid would help farmers amid rising prices for agricultural products, including fertilizers, which now cost 3,200 pesos from around 1,800 pesos per bag.

They also called for the passage of House Bill 409, drafted by the Makabayan bloc, which will provide monthly relief of 10,000 pesos to workers affected by the closure of soda companies.

He said some companies that use sugar for their products are taking advantage of the sugar crisis by implementing forced furloughs among workers, especially contract workers.

Other issues they raised include reducing contracting, implementing the national minimum wage, and suspending excise duties on petroleum products. (HIC)

Rachel J. Bradford