DOLE’s BWSC prepares sugar farmers and workers to be ‘agri-preneurs’

Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz yesterday lauded the efforts of the Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns and its social partners in the sugar industry to transform sugar farmers and sugar farm workers into becoming agriculture entrepreneurs, or ‘agri-preneurs’.

“I appreciate the convergent efforts of the BWSC and its social partners for responding to the need of our sugar farmers and workers to possess the skills to be agriculture entrepreneurs. This will no doubt prepare them for the challenges of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) integration in 2015,” said Baldoz.

More importantly, Baldoz said the effort to transform sugar farmers and sugar farm workers to become agriculture entrepreneurs will empower and enable them to earn additional income that could reduce their vulnerability.

“Through convergence, the DOLE facilitates and provides access to livelihood opportunities to shield vulnerable workers and their families from risks due to natural and man-made disasters and enable them to rebuild their lives with better access to social protection and sustainable income sources,” said Baldoz.

“Sugar farmers and workers are vulnerable workers. Our concern is to provide them social protection that will make them less vulnerable,” she added.

The labor and employment chief made the observation after the BWSC and its social partners, including implementers of the Sugar Amelioration Program, or SAP, have agreed to advocate more actively the Social Amelioration Bonus Alternative Scheme, or SABAS.

The SABAS is a strategy developed under the DOLE-Reinvest Cash Bonus for Aternative Production (DOLE-REAP) where sugar workers, through their associations, organizations, or cooperatives, are provided with necessary support services to invest and manage sustainable community enterprises funded out of their pooled cash bonus.

The agreement was one of several arrived at by participants to the recent five-day orientation, planning assessment, policy consultation, and process immersion that the BWSC, together with the DOLE Regional Office No. 6, held for DOLE officials and technical staff involved in the SAP.

Other salient agreements arrived at by the participants pertain to the implementation of a Human Resource Development Convergence Program in the sugar industry, discussion on which focused on the convergence partners’ commitment in achieving decent work for sugar workers.

They also agreed to facilitate the issuance of policy guidelines on the hiring and employment of migratory sugar workers; promote the provision of adequate temporary dwelling facility for migratory sugar workers; and advocate to extend the reach of labor standards, occupational safety and health standards, and productivity tools to sugar workers through the technical assistance of DOLE’s labor law compliance officers;

activity, held at the Sugar Workers Development Center in Bacolod City, was aimed to provide knowledge to new SAP implementers, including the sugar industry, its components, guidelines, systems, and procedures. It was also aimed at familiarizing them with the reportorial requirements on the Cash Bonus and  Maternity and Death Benefit Programs under the SAP.

Representatives of DOLE Regional Offices Nos. 2, 3, 4-A, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, and 12, and of the BWSC, Bureau of Labor Relations, Bureau of Local Employment, National Wages and Productivity Commission, Financial Management Service, and private sector organizations attended. The top DOLE officials who participated in the activity were Undersecretary Ciriaco A. Lagunzad III, Regional Director Ponciano Ligutom of DOLE Regional Office No. 6, Director Ahma Charisma Lobrin-Satumba of the BWSC, and Assistant Regional Director Elpidio B. Atal of the DOLE Regional Office No. 2.

END/Maring/with BWSC reporting

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