Senator Chiz Escudero has filed a resolution calling on the Senate to look into the competitiveness of the country’s agricultural industry in order to determine the government intervention the sector needs to boost farmers’ income while ensuring a food-secure Philippines.
In Senate Resolution No. 55, Escudero underscored the need to assess the current state of the agriculture sector, which employs 23.9% of the Filipino workforce or about 10.3 million people, to align laws and policies in order to “stabilize and improve incomes of farmers and fisherfolk, and to make food affordable and accessible to the poor and marginalized sectors has led to diverging, if not competing, public policy directions.”
“Ensuring agricultural competitiveness would require a measured deliberation geared towards determining the most effective government intervention.”
“Ensuring agricultural competitiveness would require a measured deliberation geared towards determining the most effective government intervention and the most efficient allocation of public funds to achieve the objectives of government,” the veteran legislator said.
According to the seasoned lawmaker, various agriculture-related laws need to be revisited, such as Republic Act 8178 (Agricultural Tariffication Act) as amended by RA 10848, RA 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Act, and RA 11598 or the Cash Assistance for Filipino Farmers Act, with the end view of determining if these measures are beneficial to the industry and its workers.
Over the years, the senator noted, past administrations have responded to differing priorities in agriculture by adopting a policy of targeted financial infusion in the sector to improve productivity alongside the rescission of quantitative import restrictions on agricultural commodities to reduce food costs.
“Despite financial infusion afforded by agriculture-related interventions, the exposure to global competition has contributed to a significant dependence of the agricultural sector on the international market, not only for foodstuff, but also for agricultural inputs,” he said.
Escudero added the Philippines has imported about $15.71 billion worth of agro-based products in 2021, but only exported US$6.79 billion of the same. As such, higher agricultural imports relative to exports netted an agricultural trade deficit of US$8.92 billion during the same year, which is about 40% higher than the US$6.37 billion deficit incurred in 2020.
He pointed out that the chronic deficit in trade, especially in agricultural commodities, could adversely affect job creation, wage levels and long-term competitiveness of the agricultural sector and its allied industries.
“This adverse effect of import dependence is further aggravated by deep-seated challenges that hinder efforts to realize an inclusive, resilient, sustainable and competitive agricultural sector,” Escudero said.
During the campaign, Escudero said agriculture would be high on his legislative agenda and even called on the new administration to commit P400 billion of the national spending package to the sector and increasing the budget annually over the next six years to make it robust, resilient and high-growth industry.
“The agriculture sector’s contribution to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) continues to decline, and we have to stop the trend.”
“We should all do our part in making our agriculture industry robust. The agriculture sector’s contribution to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) continues to decline, and we have to stop the trend,” Escudero said.
According to official figures, in 2019 before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the agriculture sector contributed 9.2% to the GDP — way beyond services (60.6 %) and industries (30.2%) — from 2015’s 10.1%
Poverty incidence among farmers was 31.6% in 2018, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority, followed by fisherfolk at 26.2%.