Lawmakers have filed a resolution to look over the impact on national palay yields and farmers’ incomes of the over four-decade heavy dependence by farmers on imported synthetic or petroleum-based fertilizers, amid a fresh government push for balanced fertilization or the combined use of both chemical and organic inputs in farming.
Camarines Sur Rep. Ray Villafuerte said they have filed House Resolution (HR) No. 972 directing the House Committee on Agriculture to study “the effectiveness of the use of chemical fertilizers in rice production.”
“To support, through meaningful legislation, the direction set by President Marcos on finding alternatives to boost palay productivity, there is a need to answer:  whether or not chemical fertilizers like urea really cost cheaper than, if not just the same, as biofertilizers, and  whether or not organic inputs or biofertilizers are still untested or have been proven to significantly boost crop yields,” said Villafuerte and his fellow authors in HR 972.
HR 972’s other authors are Sta. Rosa City Rep. Danilo Ramon Fernandez, who chairs the House Committee on Public Order and Safety; Bataan Rep. Albert Raymond Garcia; and Bicol Saro Rep. Brian Raymund Yamsuan.
Lawmakers recalled that the Department of Agriculture (DA) issued last April 27 the Memorandum Order (MO) No. 32 covering the “Implementing Guidelines on the Distribution and Use of Biofertilizers, which sets the guidelines on the distribution and use of biofertilizers for CY 2023.”
They observed that MO 32 apparently aims “to conquer high price of inputs and promote alternative inputs such as biofertilizers,” given that President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. announced at a recent DA sectoral meeting “his administration’s push for the use of biofertilizers by our farmers to cut their use of imported petroleum-based fertilizers.”
High palay production costs affect all rice-eating Filipinos, they said, because aside from shrinking the incomes of local farmers, the rising cost of imported inputs, such as synthetic or chemical fertilizers “also affect consumers who bear the brunt of the consequent higher prices” of rice and other foodstuff.
“Our farmers rely heavily on fertilizers and other farm inputs to boost agricultural productivity amid the lack of control over meteorological and other natural conditions,” said lawmakers.
Amid this situation, “the pressure on productivity to feed our people is ever increasing as the Philippine population grows at an estimated pace of 2 percent per year,” they said.
The DA has pegged the country’s annual requirement for various fertilizer grades at 2.6 million metric tons (MMT), which said HR 972’s authors, dents the country’s dollar reserves and our farmers’ incomes as “the Philippines imports 95 percent of its fertilizer requirements, which make it vulnerable to conditions that can affect output and prices.”
The four lawmakers pointed out that “the spike in oil prices also saw a corresponding increase in prices of fertilizers, which are by-products of oil,” thus leaving the Philippines with “virtually no control over factors affecting the cost of farm inputs as it is a net importer of fuel and fertilizer.”
They pointed out that the country ranks 64th out of 113 countries in terms of implementing the four dimensions of food security (affordability, availability, quality and safety, and natural resources and resilience), according to the 2021 Global Food Security Index of the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).
Compounding our country’s palay productivity woes, according to the resolution’s authors, is that the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) has reported that recent conditions and model forecasts indicate that El Niño—a weather condition of prolonged dry spell—might emerge in the coming season (June-August) and even persist until the first quarter of 2024.