Escudero asks the Senate for an investigation into the agricultural competitiveness of the PH – Manila Bulletin

Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero tabled a resolution asking the Senate to examine the current state of the Philippines’ agricultural industry to help determine what intervention the sector needs to increase farmers’ incomes while ensuring food security. from the country.

Escudero, in tabling Senate Resolution No. 55, stressed the need to assess the competitiveness of the country’s agricultural sector, which employs 23.9% of the Filipino workforce, or approximately 10.3 million people. .

He said it was important to align laws and policies to “stabilize and improve the incomes of farmers and fishers, and making food affordable and accessible to poor and marginalized sectors has led to divergent public policy directions. , even competitors”.

“Ensuring agricultural competitiveness would require measured deliberation aimed at determining the most effective government intervention and the most effective allocation of public funds to achieve government objectives,” Escudero said in the resolution.

The senator said all existing laws relating to agriculture should be reviewed, especially Republic Act 8178 or the Agricultural Tariff Act as amended by RA 10848, RA 11203 or the Agricultural Tariff Act. rice and RA 11598 or the Philippine Farmers Cash Assistance Act.

It is important, he said, to check whether these laws are still beneficial for the industry and its workers.

Escudero noted that in the past, past administrations have responded to different priorities in agriculture by adopting a policy of targeted financial infusion into the sector to improve productivity alongside the removal of quantitative import restrictions on agricultural products to reduce food costs.

“Despite the financial injection offered by agriculture-related interventions, exposure to global competition has contributed to a significant dependence of the agricultural sector on the international market, not only for food, but also for agricultural inputs,” he said.

Escudero noted that the Philippines imported about $15.71 billion in agricultural products in 2021, but exported only $6.79 billion.

Thus, the rise in agricultural imports relative to exports resulted in an agricultural trade deficit of $8.92 billion in the same year, about 40% higher than the deficit of $6.37 billion recorded in 2020. , did he declare.

Escudero warned that the chronic deficit in trade, particularly in agricultural products, could have a negative effect on job creation, wage levels and the long-term competitiveness of the agricultural sector and similar industries.

“This negative effect of import dependency is further compounded by deep-seated challenges that hamper efforts to create an inclusive, resilient, sustainable and competitive agricultural sector,” Escudero said.

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Norman D. Briggs