BONGABON, Nueva Ecija: Mayor Allan Xystus Gamilla on Monday urged the Department of Agriculture (DA) to spearhead a summit that will discuss how to prepare farmers and government agencies for the forthcoming Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) integration.
Mayor Allan Xystus Gamilla, whose constituents depend primarily on agriculture such as onion and rice, said the government has to come up with a detailed road map to keep the viability of the already crippling onion industry when the competition among nations goes stiff as a result of the integration next year.
This town is dubbed as onion capital of the Philippines, owing to the large production of bulbs.
He said the DA appears to have no clear plan to prepare our onion farmers for the coming integration yet.
“So I think we need to hold a summit and discuss how onion farmers could cope with the coming integration,” he said.
Bongabon remains as the country’s top producer of onions yet local farmers’ fear being unable to compete with their counterparts from other member economies, Gamilla said.
“We might be placed at a disadvantage unless there are interventions in place. Maybe, the government should consider subsidizing us,” he said.
He said onion farmers spend P150,000 per hectare as production cost for red creole and P200,000 for yellow granex.
There are an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 onion farmers in this town which produces roughly 60 percent of the country’s onions.
However, farmers suffer from low income due to the entry of imported onions believed being smuggled into the country.
As stipulated in the Asean economic community blueprint, free trade paves the way for the establishment of a single market and production base among countries in the region namely Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myan-mar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.
This means that there will be a free flow of goods, including rice, onions, services, investment, capital and skilled labor to these countries.
The goal is to create a highly competitive single market that would boast of an equitable economic development.
Under the Asean free trade regime, imported products will become cheaper and poses a real challenge to Filipino farmers.
Gamilla said the municipal government has not been remiss in undertaking steps to help local onion farmers cope with integration.
He said they have been going to the barangays showing to the farmers modules for ideal planting of alternative products.
He added that the municipal government also provided P7 million worth of seeds to onion farmers under the grassroots participatory budgeting process.