By Mario Casayuran | Manila Bulletin
With the influx of duty-free commodities from members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the government must provide a comprehensive program to help the country’s agricultural sector and farmers vulnerable to the entry of these goods. Independent vice presidential candidate Sen. Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. issued this call as the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) formally came into force last December 31.
The AEC removed import duties across the borders of 10-member countries of the ASEAN members-countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
“We have seen the effects of unbridled importation and the smuggling of agriculture products such as rice, onions and garlic on our farmers,’’ Marcos, chairman of the Senate local government committee, said.
With the removal of tariff barriers, Philippine farmers might suffer more unless the government gets its act together to provide a comprehensive package of support, he said.
‘’While big farms producing export-oriented agriculture products may fare well with the AEC, the small farmers will be vulnerable particularly with the continuing decline of the agriculture sector,’’ he said.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that agriculture declined by 0.1 percent in the third quarter of the year, mainly caused by poor palay, corn and sugarcane production which declined 15.7 percent, 1.7 percent and 41.5 percent respectively.