Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. is urging the government to provide a comprehensive program to help the country’s agricultural sector and farmers vulnerable to the effects of the influx of duty-free commodities into the country.
Marcos aired the call as the Asean Economic Community (AEC) formally came into force on December 31. Among its effects, it removed import duties across the borders of the 10 member countries of the Asean, namely Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
“We have seen the effects of unbridled importation and the smuggling of agriculture products, such as rice, onions and garlic on our farmers. With the removal of tariff barriers our farmers may suffer more unless the government gets its act together to provide a comprehensive package of support,” Marcos warned.
While he acknowledged that big farms producing export-oriented agriculture products may fare well with the AEC, the small farmers will be vulnerable, particularly with the continuing decline of the agriculture sector.
The Philippine Statistics Authority has reported that agriculture declined by 0.1 percent in the third quarter of the year, mainly caused by poor palay, corn and sugarcane production, which dropped 15.7 percent, 1.7 percent and 41.5 percent, respectively.
To help the farmers, Marcos said the government must pursue strategic infrastructure and technological programs to improve the country’s transportation network and roads, ensure a reliable and cheaper supply of electricity and upgrade the country’s irrigation systems.
Earlier, Marcos called for free irrigation service to farmers as he also urged the National Irrigation Administration to condone the existing P12 billion debt of the farmers and irrigators group.
Likewise, the Senator sought better access for farmers to cheaper credit facilities, crop insurance coverage and technical support.