January 12, 2021
The Philippines should create more micro farm industries like Antique’s Robusta coffee and ‘patadyong’ weaving products that have their own domestic markets, thereby easing “logistics” problems, House Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda said.
During the “Halalan 2022 Para sa Agrikultura” organized by the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI), Legarda, a senatorial aspirant, said her own province, Antique, hurdled the problems of Covid 19 as Congress supported marketing of local products.
“We supported agriculture. We had an amendment on the budget, provided mechanization to farmers and free seeds for palay and high value crops,” she said.
The series of agriculture online forum is being conducted by PCAFI led by President Danilo V. Fausto along with Alyansa Agrikultura led by Ernesto Ordonez, Federation of Free Farmers Chairman Sec. Leonardo Q. Montemayor, National Scientist Dr. Emil Q. Javier, and Rice Watch Chairman Hazel Tanchuling.
While there has been difficulty marketing of agricultural goods since Covid 19 lockdowns hit Philippines in March 2020, it became an opportunity to improve farmers’ production.
The Antique government bought tomatoes, leafy vegetables, and melon from farmers. It hauled these via private cars and tricycles, and gave these away during the lockdowns to residents. These– instead of giving away canned goods.
Also, Antique’s coffee received its needed promotion.
“People don’t know that Antique has Robusta coffee. I bought more than one ton (1,000 kilos) of coffee. I arranged for its packaging, wrote its short story, and named it Antique Coffee. It’s now being sold in online stores and the Echo store. It’s my Christmas gift for friends,” she said.
As another important industry for Antique women, the Antique local government also put up a small cotton processing plant in order to support the “patadyong” weaving craft.
“When we speak of farming, it’s not just food crops. In my province, we grow cotton so we won’t have to import cotton or we won’t have to use polyester for natural weaves,” said Legarda.
“I put up a cotton processing facility, manual labor. We have hand looms provided and cotton threads from our cotton farm. We do the same thing for abaca.”
Roberto C. Amores, President of the Philippine Food Processors Inc (Philfoodex) and PCAFI member, said logistics has been a perennial problem in the Philippines. Cost of inter-island shipping is prohibitively expensive.
Industries have been pressing for an amendment of the Cabotage law. Prohibitions against international shipping lines’ entry into the domestic waters are reportedly sending shipping costs to exorbitant levels.
This is where supporting local products should come in, Legarda said.
“The logistics issue is a challenge. But by supporting local and selling and buying locally, then we don’t even have to think of export because our products may be easily consumed even within our islands,” said Legarda.
PCAFI and the four farm-based groups have been orienting 2022 election candidates on the state of Philippine agriculture and have filed the following recommendations:
- Allocation of at least 10% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) budget for agriculture which is just “fair” considering its GDP contribution of 10%. At present, the sector just gets 1.5% budget. Livestock and poultry contributes 27.7% to agriculture while it only gets 5.6% of the budget. Corn contributes 6.4%, but it only gets 1.7% of DA budget.
- Tariff collections should be used to develop the corresponding sector—Corn, fisheries, livestock and poultry tariff should be used to develop corn, fisheries, livestock and poultry sectors.
- The Safeguard Measures Act, Anti Dumping Act, among others, should protect local farmers from unfair competition from imports.
- National Irrigation Administration should be administered by DA for proper irrigation coordination.
- The Bureau of Agriculture Cooperatives should be created under DA
- Local government Units should allocate funds for agriculture extension as part of the proposed Province-led Agriculture and Fisheries Extension System (PAFES) to ensure farmers get direct assistance on technology.
- Convergence of DA, Department of Trade and Industry, and Department of Science and Technology to promote food and beverage manufacturing
- Establishment of agro-industrial hubs and corridors
- Passage of Land Use Bill to preserve agricultural lands
- Diversification of agriculture production to invest more in horticultural and industrial crops, poultry, livestock, fisheries
- Developing biotechnology, food science, automation, digitalization to enhance productivity and competitiveness
- Regreening, watershed management, and agro-forestry implementation. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)