SUGAR CENTER. Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma (center) poses with members of the Sugar Tripartite Council (STC) and representatives from the sugar industry after the budget deliberations on Dec. 15. DOLE-Central Visayas regional director Lilia A. Estillore on Thursday (Dec. 22, 2022) said the council has approved the PHP18.5-million budget to boost sugar production in Central Visayas. (Photo courtesy of DOLE-7)

CEBU CITY – An PHP18.5-million budget is allocated to bankroll training and livelihood activities for sugar workers in Central Visayas in a bid to preserve the industry amid challenges in technology and human resource, an official said on Thursday.

Lilia A. Estillore, officer-in-charge of the Department of Labor and Employment in Central Visayas (DOLE-7), said her office has successfully defended the proposed budget during the deliberation of the Sugar Tripartite Council (STC) chaired by Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma.

Estillore said the budget will finance the construction of a center that will provide sugar workers, planters and their dependents the opportunity to improve their technical know-how and help the millers acquire the needed human resource to boost the sugar industry in Region 7.

“The center will provide the sugar workers and their dependents as well as the planters a place where they could focus for the conduct of their orientations, seminars, and training about the programs and services of DOLE, TESDA, and all other training institutions to help sugar industry workers both in field and mills, the millers and the planters,” Estillore told the Philippine News Agency.

She said the technical and livelihood training will preserve the sugar industry amid the financial, technological, and human resource crisis.

“Augmentation of income through livelihood assistance and training during off seasons is more relevant today than it was in 2011 when the training center was proposed,” she added.

The sugar workers training and livelihood center (SWLC) was originally proposed to be constructed in Dumaguete City.

But Estillore said the proposal underwent a series of revisions and updates until DOLE agreed to build the center in Barangay San Isidro, Tanjay City in Negros Oriental, after the local government unit adopted the project and donated a 1,0000-square meter lot for the purpose.

Estillore recalled that District Tripartite Council in Negros Oriental proposed to put up the center using the undistributed or unclaimed cash bonus of Central Azucarera de Bais and URC-SURE Universal Robina Sugar Milling Corporation.

However, the proposed center was approved by the national government which, Estillore said, will save the funds from cash bonuses of both Central and URC from being utilized for the effort to upgrade the technical skills of sugar workers. (PNA)