November 12, 2021
The government should have a way to defend Filipino farmers’ rights against excessive imports from trade agreements even as 440 million kilos of imported pork have already flooded the local market to the detriment of the local hog sector.
Senator Francis N. Pangilinan, vice presidential candidate, said in a virtual forum on “Halalan 2022 Para sa Agrikultura” hosted by the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) said the food importation regime should stop.
“We should only import when needed. Importation should be a last resort. All countries have a way of standing up against (trade agreement pressures). What’s been happening is we choose to go blinded just following mandates. There are grey areas in trade agreements we can hold on to in order to defend our farmers,” said Pangilinan.
Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines (Propork) President Edwin Chen said it is unfortunate that despite pleas from the local hog sector for a cessation on importation, the government has ruled against the local hog sector’s request.
PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto cited the Safeguard Measures Act should be invoked as section 13 provides for the protection of local farmers. The law provides that importation should only happen in cases of extreme supply shortage.
Propork also reiterated the sector’s petition for government to put up the first border inspection facility which should restrict the entry of infectious animals inflicted with the African swine flu, among others.
Chester Tan, president of the National Federation of Hog Farmers Inc., said the Philippines should repopulate its hog sector in order for the country not to depend on imports.
“But the DA (Department of Agriculture) is using the World Trade Organization (WTO) provision to import from different countries,” said Tan. “Our advocacy is to repopulate so we won’t have to depend on imports.”
Pangilinan also committed to support the creation of the Philippine Corn Administration which will take care of the welfare of corn farmers.
Philippine Maize Federation Inc. (PMFI) President Roger V. Navarro said corn farmers have been orphaned after the passage of the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL).
National Food Authority (NFA) used to have a corn buying program. But when RTL was ratified, the corn buying program was abolished as RTL just focused on rice.
Navarro said government’s aid to corn farmers should be in the form of post harvest facilities. The absence of dryers and storage facilities cause many losses to farmers at harvest time when farmers are forced to sell their corn at low prices.
The government budget for corn is only P60 million even if the corn sector is worth P100 billion, said Navarro.
Pangilinan said an executive order can already be issued in order to convene the Corn Development Board, a multi-sectoral group that used to meet to discuss development of the corn industry.
PCAFI also proposed the following measures for the development of the agriculture sector:
- Full representation and participation of the private sector in the granting of import permits, first border inspections, road map preparation and review,and other agriculture policies and programs for agricultural development.
2. Creation of the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic resources
3. Return of the authority and supervision of the National Irrigation
Administration (NIA) to the DA
4. Creation of the Bureau of Agriculture Cooperatives and Associations under
5. Mandating LGUs (local government units) to provide appropriate funds for the establishment of agriculture extension services and to support
agriculture production and value and supply chain.
6. Diversification of agriculture production giving more attention and
investments in commodities other than rice, i.e. horticultural and industrial
crops, poultry and livestock and fisheries, re-directing food production to
farming systems and multiple cropping.
7. Passage of the Land Use Bill to preserve agricultural lands.
8. Ensure and prioritize provisions for post-harvest facilities for fisheries and
aquaculture, livestock and poultry, rice, corn, coconut and high value
9. Convergence of DA (Department of Agriculture), DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) and DOST (Department of Science and Technology) initiatives to promote food and beverage manufacturing both for domestic needs and exports.
10. Establishment of agro-industrial hubs and corridors
11.. Harnessing advances in science to raise productivity and competitiveness,
e.g. modern biotechnology, food science, automation, digitalization, IT
technologies. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)