By TERESA D. ELLERA | SunStar
THE problem besetting the sugar industry is expected to be discussed by some sugar industry leaders with the UniTeam headed by its presidential bet Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. and his runningmate Sara Duterte- Carpio as they arrive in Negros Occidental Wednesday, February 23.
Marcos and Duterte-Carpio are also set to meet with 25 mayors in Negros Occidental who have expressed their support on the tandem's candidacy for president and vice president, respectively.
Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who has openly declared support for the UniTeam, will also join the meeting.
The meeting was initiated by Vice Governor Jeffrey Ferrer, a staunch supporter of Marcos, who also organized the arrival of UniTeam in the province.
After the meeting with the mayors and other officials, Marcos and Macapagal-Arroyo will also meet with the sugar planters led by United Sugar Producers Federation (Unifed).
Unifed along with other groups and sugar industry stakeholders in the province have earlier expressed dismay over Sugar Regulatory Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica for the issuance of Sugar Order 3 allowing the industrial users to import 200,000 refined sugar.
Its president, Manuel Lamata, said that the importation in March is untimely because the milling season is still at its peak.
Before the grand rally of UniTeam at the Reclamation Area, a grand caravan will be held by the UniTeam supporters from the Silay City Highway to Bacolod City. It will start at 3:30 p.m.
UniTeam's senatorial lineup includes former Public Works secretary Mark Villar, former Palace spokesperson Harry Roque, former Quezon City mayor Herbert Bautista, former Defense secretary Gilberto Teodoro, former House Deputy speaker Rodante Marcoleta and lawyer Larry Gadon.
Also included in the BBM-Sara ticket are incumbent Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri and Sherwin Gatchalian and former senators Loren Legarda, Gregorio Honasan and Jinggoy Estrada.
In a related development, the Bacolod Emergency Operations Center-Task Force (EOC-TF) reminded the attendees of the grand rally to observe the minimum health protocols.
An occupancy rate of 70 percent of the venue capacity should be observed, its deputy for medical data and analysis Dr. Chris Sorongon said.
Sorongon said the Task Force Disiplina, City Legal Enforcement team and Bacolod City Police Office (BCPO) will also secure the area to ensure the enforcement of minimum health protocols.
"We have to comply with the Alert Level 2 guidelines which only limits to 70 percent venue capacity and observe the health protocols like wearing of face masks and social distancing," he said.
Ferrer earlier said that the grand rally is expected to gather about 70,000 to 80,000 supporters of the BBM-Sara tandem.
Supporters group, Negros for BBM, in its Facebook page, said "it is time to paint Negros red and green."
Lieutenant Colonel Sherlock Gabana, spokesperson of BCPO, said several policemen will be deployed in the area of Police Station 1 to ensure peace and order.
He said Police Station 1 Commander Major Ramel Sarona was already directed to strictly enforce the minimum health protocols.
He added the Bacolod Traffic Authority Office (BTAO) was also tasked to ensure the smooth flow of traffic within the area.
Meanwhile, Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office will also deploy policemen for the caravan of Marcos and Duterte-Carpio in the cities of Talisay and Silay.