Allow sugar mills, plantations to operate, Bukidnon gov told
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Agriculture (DA) appealed to Bukidnon Governor Jose Maria Zubiri Jr. to lift his orders shutting down sugar mills and plantations in the province because “such restrictive policy would only result in artificial shortage and thus price spikes.”
“I laud your efforts to regulate the spread of COVID-19 in your province, the highland paradise in the heart of Mindanao. However, when acting to protect the health and well-being of their citizens, we should ensure that any health-related measures will not disrupt the food supply chain,” Agriculture Secretary William Dar said in a letter to Zubiri.
“Thus, we appeal for your deeper understanding of the importance of the unhampered movement of food and agricultural workers in minimizing the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic,” Dar added.
Zubiri Jr. has recently issued a directive placing the entire province of Bukidnon under total lockdown from April 13 to 26 after recording its first COVID-19 case. Bukidnon’s borders were previously shut only from non-residents before the April total lockdown.
Among Zubiri’s countermeasures against the spread of COVID-19 is the shutting down of agri-related businesses such as sugar mills, pineapple and banana plantations for two weeks. Essential establishments, including groceries, banks, hospitals and pharmacies, among others, will remain operational.
“Such LGU policies counter the DA Memorandum Circular No. 7, issued on March 17, 2020, implementing a Food Resiliency Protocol approved by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID),” Dar said in a release Wednesday.
Zubiri ordered the shutdown of the province’s two sugar mills on Tuesday, Busco Sugar Milling Company and Crystal Sugar Company, and said that the slack time should be used to disinfect their premises.
Both mills employ more than 500 workers and purchase sugarcane from over 10,000 planters. Combined, they produce 82% of Mindanao’s total sugar output, and 16% of the country’s total production, according to the DA.
There is a total of about 19,000 employees who work at the two sugar mills and several banana and pineapple companies in Bukidnon.
The shutting down of the mills since March 28 under the ECQ was only supposed to last until April 5 but it was extended to match the ECQ’s new end date of April 26.
“Subsequently, disruption in the operations will have a negative impact on the supply chain and will ultimately result (in) the financial dislocation of thousands of their employees,” the DA chief said.
The DA also reiterated its appeal to other local government units to reconsider policies that hamper operations related to food production, processing, transport and trade amid the enhanced community quarantine placed over Luzon and other parts of the country.
“We urge the provincial governors, city and municipal mayors in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, to allow their respective farmers, fishers, and workers in food processing and manufacturing facilities to continue to do their jobs, provided they strictly observe physical distancing, health and sanitation measures,” Dar said.
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