By Bernadette E. Tamayo | Journal Online
“The foundation of our economy is agriculture, yet it was not mentioned at all. If the government is serious about helping the poor, it should focus its efforts on the agriculture sector, which I think is facing a crisis,” said Marcos.
Official government statistics show that agriculture grew by 1.78 percent in the first quarter of 2015 compared to the same period last year.
“We have not heard anything about the government’s program to support agriculture when we know that majority of our farmers are poor,” said Marcos, who hails from Ilocos Norte, one of the country’s agricultural provinces.
He noted that the entire SoNA, consisting of about 17,000 words, the word “agriculture” was mentioned only when the President thanked Secretaries Proceso Alcala and Francis Pangilinan and in the testimonial of Apayao Gov. Elias Bulut, Jr. on the roads constructed in his province.
Apart from these instances, the SoNA was silent on the issue of agriculture, said Marcos.
“It is alarming because we are now entering the full implementation of the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement where each member-countries committed to open their markets to each other, and the first sector that would be hardest hit in the Philippines is agriculture,” he noted.
The lawmaker recalled that when AFTA was signed in 1992, all ASEAN countries committed to reduce their commercial tariffs by 2015.
He echoed the concerns of business leaders and economists that the country has not taken adequate preparations for the full implementation of AFTA.
The Bureau of Agricultural Statistics reported that improved performances were noted in the crops, livestock and poultry sub-sectors, but the fisheries sub-sector posted a decline during the period.
At current prices, agriculture grossed P380.1 billion, lower by 1.65 percent than last year’s record.
Marcos has filed several bills in the Senate to support the country’s agricultural sector, including Senate Bill 112 or the “National Seeds Production Act” and SB 14, or the “National Irrigation Program”.
Recently, he conducted consultations with coconut farmers in Luzon and assured them of his support in their bid to ensure that the P74.3-billion coco levy fund is used for their benefit and for the good of the country’s coconut industry.