Statement of grave concern over EO 171

IN his inaugural address, President Marcos pointed out that food is not only a tradeable commodity or source of livelihood. Food, he stressed, is an “existential imperative” because “without it, people weaken and die; societies come apart.” Our Chief Executive questioned a trade policy that prescribes that “a country should not produce but import what other countries make more of and sell cheapest.” He implied that relying primarily on imports makes the Philippines vulnerable to supply disruptions from external factors like the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and climate change.

President Marcos assumed the leadership of the Department of Agriculture “to make it clear to everyone what a high priority we put on the agricultural sector.” He underscored the need to boost local production and reorganize the DA bureaucracy. In his first national budget submission, the President raised significantly the DA’s budget—proposing a 40 percent increase. He launched initiatives to address rising fertilizer prices, fast track the construction of farm-to-market roads, and provide marketing support to farmers. He also prioritized the condonation of land amortization debts of agrarian reform farmer-beneficiaries.

On the other hand, 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 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 surge in imports has not benefitted the buying public, whereas it has depressed farm gate 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.

Likewise, we urge the President to stand firm on his commitment to protect and support our farmers and fishers in connection with the Philippines’s proposed membership in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement. Entry into any trade or economic deal must be based on equality, reciprocity, mutual benefit and national interest.

Lastly, we ask 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. In particular, we remain extremely concerned about the DA’s unliquidated budget usage—totaling P22 billion—in 2020. Moreover, the 2023-2028 Philippine Development Plan is being finalized by the National Economic and Development Authority—with little or no involvement of farmers, fishers, and their organizations!

1. NICANOR M. BRIONES, Party-List Representative Agricultural Sector Alliance of the Philippines (AGAP)

2. DIOSCORO A. GRANADA, President Federation of Free Farmers (FFF)

3. ELIAS JOSE M. INCIONG, President United Broiler Raisers Association (UBRA)

4. ROLANDO E. TAMBAGO, President Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines, Inc.

5. ROGER V. NAVARRO, President Philippine Maize Federation (PhilMaize)

6. ARSENIO TANCHULING, President Alyansa Agrikultura

7. RAFAEL V. MARIANO, Chairman Emeritus Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP)

8. HERMINIO AGSALUNA, President Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA)

9. GREGORIO A. SAN DIEGO, Chairman Philippine Egg Board Association and United Broiler Raisers Association

10. CHARLES R. AVILA, Executive Director and Spokesperson Confederation of Coconut Farmers Organizations of the Philippines

11. EDUARDO MORA, Chairperson Pambansang Kaisahan ng mga Magbubukid sa Pilipinas (PKMP)

12. ROY M. RIBO, National Coordinator Kalipunan ng mga Maliliit na Magniniyog ng Pilipinas (KAMMPIL)

13. ASIS PEREZ, Convenor Tugon Kabuhayan

14. RENE E. OFRENEO, President Integrated Rural Development Foundation (IRDF)

15. MARLON P. PALOMO, Executive Director Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM)

This joint statement has been approved by the above-listed organizations and signed by their respective official representatives.

Certified by: Leonardo Q. Montemayor

Board Chairman

Federation of Free Farmers

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