SUGAR PLANTERS SAID TO BE FOR POE
GUIHULNGAN, NEGROS ORIENTAL, April 5, 2004 (STAR) By Nikko Dizon — The big sugar planters’ associations of Negros island are now supporting the presidential bid of Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) standard-bearer Fernando Poe Jr., Negros Oriental Rep. Jacinto Paras said here yesterday.
Paras blamed the problems besetting the sugar industry on Poe’s main rival, President Arroyo, because "it was during her time that the prices of sugar fell because of smuggling." "The problem of the sugar industry is the unabated smuggling," he said. "A lot of sugar planters are now for FPJ (Poe)."
In reports published last Sunday, Mrs. Arroyo challenged Poe to a debate on his plans for the sugar industry. Mrs. Arroyo was also quoted as saying that she "implemented many measures to help the sugar industry" in her three years as president.
Paras, one of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) members who recently defected to the KNP, said among those who already expressed support for the actor-turned-politician is the Negros Oriental—San Carlos City Association.
Paras was unable to name the other associations but said most of them are from Negros Occidental, where the family of First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo is considered one of the landed sugar planter clans.
Paras revealed that Poe had met with leaders of the sugar planters associations. Poe confirmed the meeting, where the sugar planters were supposed to have "expressed support" for his candidacy.
Poe said the sugar planters raised six areas of concern for the industry, which basically revolved around the issues of sugar smuggling, the fall of sugar prices, and the development of farm-to-market roads in the provinces.
Poe also reiterated that he would not debate with Mrs. Arroyo because he saw debates as divisive.
Over the weekend Poe and the KNP barnstormed Negros island, considered a bailiwick of the President.
The KNP has been trying hard to make political capital out of recent administration defections.
Poe’s spokesman Rep. Francis Escudero said the defection of Arroyo supporters in vote-rich areas like Negros was the KNP’s guarantee that votes for Poe would be "counted and guarded."
Buoyed up by the results of a recent Social Weather Stations survey showing Poe and Mrs. Arroyo in another statistical tie, the Sorsogon lawmaker claimed that the campaign is nearing its "tipping point."
"Mrs. Arroyo has reached her peak. At 32 percent, she has touched her glass ceiling. That’s the peak of her popularity. Government resources can only bring her up to that point. It will be downhill for her afterwards. And the velocity of her plunge will be fast as her supporters desert her for Mr. Poe," he said.
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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