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GMA News Online : Bongbong wants agriculture prioritized next to education

News & Interviews
6 December 2021

By HANA BORDEY | GMA News Online

Presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Monday said agriculture should be prioritized next to education.

During the Agri 2022 online forum, Marcos lamented how the agriculture sector became a “poor cousin” in the government’s list of priorities.

He highlighted the need for a “change of approach” in the agriculture as it is commonly viewed as a “sink hole for funding.”

“What is needed is to reprioritize agriculture to its proper place. In fact, maybe the only one that will be ahead of agri is education pero (but) after education, dapat agri na ang pinaguusapan natin (we should be talking about agriculture),” he said.

Although he admitted that in a nationwide context every sector is important, Marcos explained that agriculture must be prioritized as it involves the food security of the country.

“Agriculture is as important as any other sectors, any other development that we are looking at because we are looking at feeding our people…I can think of things that are equally important but I can't think of anything that is more important than the agri sector,” he said.

“Naging poor cousin ang agri e (Agri has become a poor cousin). ‘Bahala na yan. Okay na ‘yan, They’ll figure it out.’ You have to have a plan and that’s where we have failed and that is where I think we can make a fundamental change in the way we approach the problem,” he added.

To make this possible, Marcos said the government needs to consolidate its assets, utilize its agriculture experts, assess the situation on the ground, evaluate the agriculture’s effects on the actual budgetary allocation, among others.

“That is at least the start on making our agri sector more vibrant and viable sector for our farmers now and hopefully the younger generation of farmers that would come in if we make it attractive,” he said.

“Should I become the president, I am resigned to the fact that the effects will be felt be the next administration but that’s okay we have to start it and that’s I think how to start we have to change the attitude of the government when it comes to agri,” he noted.

Importation

At the same forum, Marcos lamented the nation’s reliance on importation, noting the need to provide protections to local farmers.

“That’s the easy way for people to have the supply, keep the prices down, at the same time, they are making money but again to go back nasisira talaga ang local kasi  (it destroys the local farmers because) they have no protection or whatsoever,” he said.

“Do you remember last year? Suddenly, there was a notice from the [Department of Agriculture], saying we should prioritize importation. Where does that kind of thinking come from? Why? What possible reason do you want to prioritize importation before the local? Lalo na nasa gitna tayo ng (Especially now that we are in the midst of a) pandemic, we don’t have that much funds to be paying out for an exchange for our food,” he noted.

Marcos likewise observed the “unintended consequences” of the Rice Tariffication Law, saying farmers are no longer planning to plant rice because they are not earning anything.

He said he was open to suspending the law. 

“‘Yung Rice Tarrification Law, kung babasahin mo sa batas, mukhang tama naman pero naging effect sa katotohanan is, ‘yun na nga unintended consequences  nasabayan pa ng pandemic, so bagsak talaga ang farmers ngayon and they don’t know how to make money anymore…No one wants to enter farming. There’s no money to be made 'di ba?” he said.

(If you will read the Rice Tariffication Law, it appears that it is right, but the truth is there are unintended consequences and we are still dealing with the pandemic, so the farmers are really struggling and they don’t know how to make money anymore…No one wants to enter farming. There’s no money to be made, right?)

“That is a cycle that keeps sucking us down into this importation hole until before we know it, we are not producing anymore,” he noted. — RSJ, GMA News