Labor Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz has approved the release of P5.6 million to the Sugar Industry Foundation, Inc. (SIFI) to fund various socio-economic projects for sugar workers and their dependents for this year.

"The P5.6 million is for the education and health care of sugar workers, and part of the  amount will also fund entrepreneurship projects of SIFI which  will increase the sugar workers' income and improve their skills and capabilities to enable them to access development opportunities and services in and outside of the industry," said Baldoz.

Director Charisma Satumba of the Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns (BWSC), reported to the labor chief that a total of 14,910 sugar farm workers and their families are expected to benefit from the projects to be funded by the P5.6 million, specifically during the lean season when remunerative jobs are scarce in sugarcane plantations.

The SIFI is one of the DOLE's social partners authorized to implement socio-economic projects for sugar workers under the Social Amelioration Program (SAP).

The P5.6 million is the last tranche of the P22.668 million  budget proposed by SIFI for  funding under the SAP for 2013 to 2014, as recommended by the Sugar Tripartite Council (STC) under Resolution No. 2, Series of 2013. The said budget funded SIFI's educational assistance, child labor capability building training, health insurance, livelihood, and relief assistance for Typhoon Yolanda victims.

Director Satumba said fund releases to SIFI in 2013 amounted to P17 million, or 75 percent, of the total budget. SIFI has already liquidated P16.584 million of the total released fund.

Last year, 1,454 dependents of sugar workers benefited from the SIFI's educational aid program; 22 children of sugar workers were removed from child labor; 430 sugar workers were given livelihood assistance; and 12,500 benefitted from the health care program.

In 2012, a total of 1,029 dependents of sugar workers benefited from the educational aid program; 21 children of sugar workers were removed from child labor; 663 sugar workers were given livelihood assistance; and 20,940 benefitted from the health care program.

"SIFI has been able to count on the help of organizations from the communities to effectively deliver its programs to the poorest sugar farming communities," said Baldoz, adding that SIFI's projects for sugar workers support the thrust of the President for inclusive growth and poverty reduction.

Baldoz said SAP monies address problems brought about by the lean months in the industry during which time farmers and sugar workers do not have work. SAP beneficiaries, such as SIFI, engage in cooperative building and skills enhancement to increase the income of farmers and sugar workers.

Under R.A. 6982, a lien of approximately P8 per 50-kilo bag of sugar is collected from sugarcane farmers and millers to benefit their respective workers.

Eighty percent of the lien is directly distributed as cash bonus to sugar workers based on sugar production of their employers and the service they rendered every crop year.

The remaining 20 percent is allocated as follows: nine (9) percent for socio-economic programs; five (5) percent for death benefits; three (3) percent for maternity benefits of sugar industry workers; and three (3) percent for administrative expenses of the DOLE to implement the SAP, including expenses for national and district tripartite council meetings.

The SAP lien started at P1 per picul in 1974 by virtue of Presidential Decree 621.  It was later increased to P2 per picul pursuant to Letter of Instruction 1209. The lien was further increased   to P5 per picul  when R.A. 6982 took effect in 1991-92. This was subsequently increased by P1 per every two crop years in the next ten years of the effectivity of said law until it reached P10 per picul (about P8 per 50-kilo bag) in crop years 2001-2002. The amount of the SAP lien has not increased and remained at the same level since then.

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