DAVAO CITY — President-elect Rodrigo Duterte will push for a stronger agricultural sector to secure the country’s food sufficiency as he scored the continued conversion of land planted with rice and corn to other commodities for export.
The incoming president voiced concern that losing food sufficiency due to decreasing production capacity would make Philippines at the mercy of its neighbors on food imports especially with the advent of the World Trading Organization (WTO) trading system.
Duterte said the country was giving too much to multinational companies, which converted rice and corn lands to bananas, pineapples, and coffee and export the products to other countries. “It is a corporate endeavor and mga dagko lang makakaya. Hurot na atong yuta. Wala na ta’y katamnan para sa atong pagkaon (only these big companies can afford. We have no more lands to plant for our food),” he said during his “One Love One Nation Thanksgiving Party at Crocodile Park on Saturday night.
He noted that Philippines has been importing goods which can be produced by the country such as rice from Vietnam, Thailand and Laos.
“We do not have to import that kind of food because we produce it here,” said Duterte, adding that Philippines being an agricultural country can increase production capacity and could even export the produce to other countries in ASEAN.
One of his plans is to assist farmers by providing farm implements and fertilizers. “I could even buy your products and sell them at government price and to be competitive,” he said.
“We have so much money if only we spend it correctly,” he said pointing to losses of government income to graft and corruption. He said that if government lose about Php 300 million in the Bureau of Customs (BoC) and Php 200 million in the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), that could be used to buy lands and pay even the awardees of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
Duterte pointed out that the country needs to catch up with its ASEAN neighbors, especially with the advent of the WTO which allows importation of goods.
“We are dependent on importation from Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. Mao na’y delikado sa atong sitwasyon (That is the danger in our situation). We are at the mercy of other countries in ASEAN. We have to catch up and improve on everything,” he stressed.
During the election campaign, Duterte and Senator Alan Peter Cayetano presented their agricultural agenda vowing to allocate more funds to the sector.
Duterte has earlier said that his administration would make irrigation services free for the farmers even as he promised to provide them with adequate farm facilities once elected into office.
Real economic growth, Duterte explained, must start from the land as the country is agriculturally-based.
“Our aim is real inclusive growth through regional development,” Cayetano had said “Through this, we can achieve the twin goals of ensuring food security and ending disorder in our farmers; daily lives.”
Cayetano has recognized the urgent need to come up with solutions and swift actions to address the lack of government support which, he said, adds disorder in the country.
Real economic growth, Duterte explained, must start from the land as the country is agriculturally-based. Lilian Mellejor/PNA/northboundasia.com