Business Mirror : Group presents agri wish list to incoming BBM admin

By JASPER Y. ARCALAS | Business Mirror

The Coalition for Agriculture Modernization of the Philippines (CAMP) has prepared a “wish list” for the incoming administration to boost the agriculture sector that included raising the budget and creation of a new department of fishery and oceans.

Topping the CAMP’s preliminary wish list titled “Imperatives for the BBM Administration” is the appointment of an Agriculture Secretary “with proven creative and managerial skills.” The group also recommended the subsequent appointment for its proposed Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).

“The Secretaries must nurture a competent and dedicated bureaucracy that will implement a transformative plan for the Agri-fishery sector,” the document, a copy of which was obtained by the BusinessMirror, read.

The CAMP urged the incoming administration to raise the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) budget to at least 4 percent of the government’s annual budget, making it “comparable with those of our Asean neighbors.”

The group also proposed the certification as urgent of a bill that would create the DFO that shall oversee the development of the country’s “modern blue economy.” Numerous bills have been filed at Congress for the creation of a Department of Fisheries, Department of Water, Department of Ocean, and the like.

“The primary function of the new department is to develop and manage resources in the oceans and other aquatic ecosystems,” the group said.

“Fully operationalize all Mariculture Parks to create alternatives for fisherfolk and anticipate the increased demand for fish products,” it added.

The CAMP also proposed the creation of the Bureau of Agri-fishery Industrialization Cooperatives under the DA, which will focus on ensuring that “farmers and fisherfolk get a fair share of the economic benefits from primary industries and lift them out of poverty.” The group added that the Land Bank of the Philippines must create a subsidiary dedicated to providing credit to smallholder farmers, fisherfolk as well as small and medium enterprises in the food system.

The group called on the adoption and implementation by the incoming administration of the 10-year National Agri-fishery Modernization and Industrialization Plan (NAFMIP) as well as the Province-led Agri-fishery Extension System (PAFES) to complement the former.

The incoming administration must also hasten the shift of the agriculture sector to renewable energy to achieve energy security and “revive the nuclear energy program,” according to the group. The group added that the next administration must mainstream crop diversification and digital technology in agriculture.

CAMP also proposed the modernization of the Food Terminal Inc. to solve farmers’ perennial problems on high wastage and losses of products by providing facilities for processing and marketing.

The next administration should also ratify the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) on “further enhancing efforts to make the agri-fishery sector internationally competitive.”

Lastly, the group urged the next administration to curb agricultural smuggling and “rigorously” collect the correct tariffs from legitimate imports, which must be automatically allocated for the modernization of domestic industries.

In a rejoinder to CAMP’s wish list, economist Pablito M. Villegas proposed that the next Agriculture Secretary should be a “pro-active member” of the economic team to harmonize agriculture development with the “potential and effects and impact of macro prices [wage, inflation, interest and exchange rates].”

Villegas, a former vice president of the Land Bank of the Philippines, said the incoming administration might consider creating a Public Private Partnership (PPP)-funded countryside banks that would focus on serving 3rd to 5th class towns. He added that the mandated Agri-Agra Credit Loan must be channeled to projects that are focused on agro-industrial development such as irrigation, logistics and agro-processing facilities, among others.

Villegas also proposed the proper implementation of the Sagip Saka Law to ensure farmers’ market and income, as the government’s food needs are estimated at P40 billion and more. The Sagip Saka law allows the government to directly procure food requirements for its programs and projects from local farmers.