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Treat ‘sacada’ better, Antique gov tells landowners

BACOLOD CITY—Antique Gov. Rhodora Cadiao has asked landowners to treat sacada (migrant workers) better, saying she has received reports that workers from her province have been staying in “subhuman” living quarters in sugarcane plantations in Negros Occidental province.

“They sleep in cramped, elevated living quarters made of bamboo, the only partition between couples is a piece of (jute sack). Their children are staying with them,” Cadiao told the Inquirer during a visit to local officials here to discuss the situation of sacada. “The smell is unbearable, which might explain why many of them get sick,” said Cadiao, who brought a team of health and social workers from Antique on Friday to check on the condition of the workers.

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Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr., in a meeting with Cadiao, proposed to set up an office to allow landowners to directly hire sacada, instead of coursing recruitment through contractors who exploit them.

“That will cut the commission of the contractors and protect the sacada from abuse,” Marañon said.

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He said an estimated 10,000 sacada come to work in Negros Occidental’s sugarcane plantations from October to February.

The governor also proposed the creation of livelihood opportunities for sacada during the “dead” season or lean months when work in plantations stop.

Cadiao said Antique’s sacada are forced to find work in Negros Occidental.

“Antique [is] a poor province [and it] lacks opportunities and livelihood [for our people]—a situation that pushes our sacada to work [in Negros Occidental],” Cadiao said. “That is why we are working to attract investors to our province.”

She said her administration has allocated P3 million for the livelihood program of sacada.

Cadiao said she is aware that contractors who recruit sacada are making these workers subsist on meals that consist mainly of rice with broth, or the sauce of canned sardines or dried fish, despite their heavy workload. Sacada, she said, are paid only P260 a day.

The governor’s team, which visited sugarcane fields in the cities of Bacolod, Talisay and Silay to see the living conditions of sacada, held free medical examinations and gave out medicines. Cadiao said they registered 300 workers with the Philippine Health Insurance System.

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She asked landowners to stop workers from bringing their children to sugarcane fields and make sure that the children would stay in school in Antique.

“These workers should also be protected for doing their share in making the sugarcane business thrive,” Cadiao said.

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TAGS: antique, Migrant workers, Negros Occidental, Rhodora Cadiao, sacada, sugarcane
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