Farming group seeks ‘Filipino First’ policy
Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - February 12, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The private farm sector is calling on the government to adopt a “Filipino Farmers First” policy as it rejects the liberalization of rice imports into the country.

The Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) is urging President Duterte to zero in on a policy adopted by economic giants US and China.

“Since rice is most political of commodities, if the government will be seen as having abandoned rice farmers to the ravages of unfair trade so that consumers can savor the magic of the market, then investments in the sector will shrink. Why produce when the signal from the government is to import?” PCAFI president Danilo Fausto said.

He said the bill replacing quantitative restriction on rice with tariffs may threaten local food security as climate change could unexpectedly shrink global rice supply anytime.

The group argued that providing subsidies to farmers has been the success track of countries like the US and China which have become leaders in agriculture.

“Subsidies in one form or another have been the template for other countries with successful agricultural sectors. If we are to win the struggle for the future of agriculture, a more pragmatic approach as practiced by countries like the US and China should be the way forward,” Fausto said.

PCAFI said even the current QR policy, which imposes a maximum volume per crop year that may be imported by the National Food Authority, is a weak one that will not optimize opportunities for Filipino farmers nor boost food production.

The group is also questioning a bill which provides for an automatic appropriation of P10 billion for the proposed Rice Competitive Enhancement Fund over the next five years.

“The Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act of 1997 also provided for an automatic appropriation of P17 billion annually for six years on top of the regular Department of Agriculture budget, but it never happened,” Fausto said.

He added that the 1995 Tariffication Act, which established an Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, was known for corruption than enhancing agricultural competitiveness.

“These safety nets seemed to be more for show because up to now the government has no trade data system to determine if an importation is in accordance with the rules of the WTO in terms of valuation and trade remedies, if any,” Fausto said.

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