Agriculture stakeholders and farmers groups on Wednesday urged President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to stand firm on his commitment to shield farmers and fishers from cheap imports.
The groups, in a joint statement, reminded the President of his statement, that “relying primarily on imports makes the Philippines vulnerable to supply disruptions from external factors like the Covid pandemic, the war in Ukraine and climate change.”
“In his inaugural address, President Marcos pointed out that food is not only a tradable commodity or source of livelihood. Food, he stressed, is an existential imperative because without it, people weaken and die; societies come apart,” said the groups, quoting the President.
They said, however, that “some forces” within the Marcos administration are apparently resisting the president’s policy declarations.
“They seek to continue the past regime’s trade liberalization agenda of opening our local markets to more and cheaper imports. This is highlighted by the veiled attempt of our current economic managers to extend the validity of Executive Order [EO] No. 171—after Congress begins its December recess.”
The EO was originally issued by President Duterte in May 2021 purportedly to address the rising prices of pork, rice and corn by lowering their tariffs until the end of 2022.
“Now, they want to keep the low tariffs until end-December 2023, citing the lingering effects of Covid and the war in Ukraine. Despite the huge import volumes engendered by EO 171, consumers continue to reel from high food prices.”
The groups said the surge in imports has not benefited the buying public, but it has depressed farmgate prices.
“The National Treasury has lost billions in revenues due to reduced customs duties. Cheap imports have further discouraged our farmers from sustaining and expanding their production, thus causing even more supply shortages and increasing our dependence on imports. This vicious cycle will persist—for as long as we do not rationalize and align our trade policy with our sustainable food self-sufficiency objective.”
“What President Marcos does with EO 171 will be a litmus test of his political will in prioritizing local food production over imports and his ability to rein in economic managers who are pursuing a different tack,” they said.
The groups also urged the President to consider the plight of local farmers and fishers in view of the Philippines’s proposed membership in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade agreement.
“Entry into any trade or economic deal must be based on equality, reciprocity, mutual benefit and national interest.”
They asked the President to “broaden and deepen” consultations and participative processes with farmers and other primary stakeholders by the Department of Agriculture and other agencies dealing with the agro-fisheries sector.
“This will contribute to better formulation, implementation and monitoring of policies and programs.”
Groups that signed the joint statement include the Agricultural Sector Alliance of the Philippines, Federation of Free Farmers, United Broiler Raisers Association, Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines Inc., Philippine Maize Federation, Alyansa Agrikultura, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka, Philippine Egg Board Association.
Image credits: AP/Julia Nikhinson