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NTA agrees to tobacco industry roadmap

AN industry roadmap is very important in assessing the performance, opportunities, and challenges as well as in outlining goals and strategies needed for the tobacco industry.

This was the message of NTA Administrator Robert L. Seares to the representatives of the private sector and tobacco farmers associations during the Consultation Workshop on the Socioeconomic Footprint and Roadmap held at Max's Restaurant in San Fernando City, La Union on October 19.

This is part of a series of consultations and dialogues initiated by the private sector to formulate the Tobacco Industry Roadmap.

The roadmap will serve as the basis of the agency in effecting policies and implementing programs for the benefit and interest of the 65,000 registered tobacco growers in the country and all those that depend on the industry for their livelihood.

"I hope this will make Philippine tobacco production a lucrative venture, as before; elevate the development and growth of the industry as a competitive player in the global market; and establish industry sustainability, which is based on environmentally sound and economically viable plans for the tobacco-growing communities," Seares said.

Tobacco has been the cash crop of the people in the Ilocos Region and some areas in Region 2. The industry has been generating enormous revenue, in the form of excise taxes, for the national government, with P97-B collection in 2015, which the tobacco-producing local government units use for education, infrastructure, economic, health and welfare programs all over the country.

Seares stressed that NTA must be more responsive to the total needs of the industry, and mobilize its resources necessary to fulfill its mandate.

"That is why we adopted the Farmers First Policy to look after the interest and welfare of our tobacco growers in all our plans and undertakings. Our main concern is always income augmentation, thereby contributing to poverty alleviation and inclusive growth for our farmers," he added.

With the Administrator during the consultation were Deputy Administrator for Operations Atty. Mel John I. Verzosa; Directors Nestor C. Casela, Teofilo R. Quintal, and Wilfredo C. Martinez; some Department Managers; and the Branch Managers of the different provincial offices. The farmers sector was represented by the officers of the National Federation of Tobacco Farmers Associations and Cooperatives (NAFTAC).

The consultation was spearheaded by the team of Dr. Rolando T. Dy, Executive Director, and Marie Annette G. Dacul, Senior Agribusiness Specialist, of Cthe University of Asia and the Pacific, who are tasked to conduct studies/surveys for the industry roadmap.

During a meeting with NTA officials in Quezon City last September, the team explained the objectives of the project, which is to analyze the socioeconomic footprint of the industry and to develop "an inclusive, stakeholder-crafted and market-driven industry roadmap that is expected to improve the farmers' income and achieve product diversity."

The said meeting was requested by the UA&P officials to personally ask the assistance of the NTA in obtaining certain data that are imperative to the said study. A field survey and interviews on farmers in tobacco-growing areas started in September. The project was initiated by the Philippine Tobacco Institute.

"I expect that until we finally complete the Industry Road-map, we still have other stakeholders' meetings as this, to have a unified masterplan for the growth and development of the tobacco industry," Seares said, as he enjoined industry leaders and tobacco growers, to take active part in the undertaking.

The discussion on the Tobacco Industry Roadmap was initiated in consonance with the formulation of the Tobacco Action Plan during the first tobacco industry forum and stakeholders' consultation, attended by Agriculture Secretary Manny PiƱol, in Davao City last June 15. (Neyo E. Valdez)