The sugar industry has sought the help of the provincial governments of Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental and Antique to facilitate processing of sacadas amidst COVID-19 travel protocols, with the start of the milling season in September.
Sugar Regulatory Administration Board Member, Dino Yulo, said yesterday that “there is already an agreement between Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson of Negros Occidental and Gov. Rhodora Cadiao of Antique to facilitate the immediate processing of travel documents for the sacadas who are expected to start coming in by the first week of September.”
The sacadas are migrant cane cutters from Antique who work in Negros Occidental during the harvest season. Records show that there are about 3,000 of them who are listed with the Department of Labor and Employment.
Yulo, however, said there are about 5,000 to 6,000 sacadas from Antique, many of them undocumented.
“With this agreement between our LGUs, we can now legally document migrant sugar cane cutters as they will have to follow the ‘no ID, no entry’ policy that has been agreed upon,” Yulo added.
Juliana Cepe, Provincial Planning and Development Coordinator of Antique, said “a system will be created for the legal deployment of sacadas which will be processed by millers’ representatives from July 15 to August 15.”
This will give ample time for Negros Occidental to prepare the Certificates of Acceptance for the sacadas, Yulo said.
DOLE will also require “contractors” to secure Authority to Hire permits before recruiting workers so they will not be accused of illegal recruitment. Once the list has been prepared, this will be submitted to the respective municipalities in Antique so that each LGU will have their own data base through the PESO, Yulo said.
After approval by the LGUs, the sacadas have to submit their birth certificates, mayor’s permit, PNP clearance and medical certificates duly signed by a government or private physician before they can be given the authority to travel and a provincial ID signed by Cadiao, Yulo said.
Yulo said they are also coordinating with Governor Arthur Defensor of Iloilo and Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia for a “provisional transit” permit for these “tapaseros”.
This has now “allayed fears” among sugar producers who were worried that travel restrictions may be a problem if sacadas will not be allowed to come to Negros, Yulo said. In the past years, there has been scarcity of sacadas due to the construction boom and there were planters who would hire migrant workers from as far as Palawan, he said.
Antique welcomes this agreement because of the economic value it provides for their province, Yulo said. A sacada usually gets a P15,000 preliminary payment for their contract and “if we just based it on official records, 3,000 of them alone is equivalent to P45 million in initial pay-out,” he added.
Sacadas are paid depending on their capacity to cut canes which normally runs to 1-1.5 tons per day per cane cutter, he said.
A similar agreement has been sent by Lacson to Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo for sacadas coming from the other side of the island.
“We have a different set-up for migrant workers from Oriental as they usually come in a package deal of “truck with men,” Yulo said, adding that these workers usually take the opportunity to earn extra because the “milling season there usually starts in December.”*