BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – Preparations are in full swing as the dead season in the sugar industry comes to a halt with the opening of mills and refineries here, a development expected to ease the economic slump as the backbone of the Negros economy wakes up again.
Lawyer Emilio Bernardino Yulo, a member of the Sugar Regulatory Administration, told DNX the procedure is “stringent” for the arrival of migratory sugarworkers (MSWs), commonly known as sacadas who are commonly hired mostly by big sugarcane planters.
Yulo, who represents planters in the SRA, said representatives of the labor department had been conducting inspections in haciendas or sugarcane plantations in the province to ensure compliance to DOLE specifications for cuartels or barracks of workers.
Some planters who have existing cuartels already had these retrofitted to include, among others, a sick bay or a room where those showing symptoms can be isolated.
At least 1,800 sacadas are expected to arrive for the first batch of migrant workers from Aklan who have applied to work here.
The entry of sacadas are regulated by guidelines issued by DOLE, IATF rules, procedures of town and city governments and issuances by the governors of Antique and Aklan.
Antique Governor Rhodora Caduao had earlier issued on 11 August guidelines for the “transport” of sacadas while Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson had also issued on 6 August guidelines for the arrival of these workers.
Yulo said the guidelines stipulate that upon arrival at the private port in the city, the sacadas will immediately be swabbed for an RT-PCR test.
Only then can they be brought to the cuartels of the planter who hired them.
They are expected to stay in these cuartels until their swab results are released.
Sugarplanters have agreed to pay P1,500 per worker for the cost of RT-PCR tests if these are not members of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation or PhilHealth.
At work, the sacadas are expected to comply with health protocols like wearing masks and observing social distancing.
Cuartels are also expected to be only 50 percent occupied based on health guidelines.
2015 data from the Sugar Regulatory Administration show more than half of the close to half a million hectares of sugar farms are in tbe island.
At least 13 mill districts are also in the island, 11 in the Occidental and two in the Oriental.
CRISS BORDER WORKERS
Yulo also pointed out that it is the first time this milling season that the movement of cross-border workers or those from Oriental Negros would be regulated and monitored.
These migratory workers differ from those from Aklan as they usually come in trucks, which planters are expected to also hire for transporting their canes to the mills.
They usually cross the provincial borders in September to cut and transport canes as the milling season in the Oriental start later, usually during the months of November or December.
These workers also go home to their families every Saturdays as soon as they get their weekly pays and return to work early in the morning of Mondays.
They can usually be found in the northern cities of San Carlos and Escalante or Binalbagan, La Carlota and Kabankalan in the south and the towns of Moises Padilla and La Castellana.