By Charlie Manalo | The Daily Tribune
Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos is batting for all-out government drive to revive our floundering agriculture sector and regain the country’s status as the leading agricultural power in the Asian region.
Speaking at the “Araw ng Agrikultura” in Baler, Aurora on Monday, Marcos shared his vision for a Philippines that is self-sufficient and can feed its own people, standing on the foundation of a strong agriculture sector as the main driver for the country’s economic growth.
“Pour our resources and efforts to boost the growth of our agriculture. Let us work to regain the country’s status as an agricultural titan,” said Marcos as he extolled the government of Aurora province for giving importance to agriculture.He lamented the continuing drop in agriculture’s contribution to the economy from a high of 30 percent in the post-World War II era to the current level of only 11 percent.
“What is more alarming is that agriculture is now tied with poverty. Some 37 percent of our workers are in the agriculture sector and they are the lowest paid workers in the country,” Marcos said.
With no capital and high prices of farm inputs and low buying price of their produce farmers are forced to deal with loan sharks and so many of them fall into the debt trap, according to Marcos. He said the situation turns to worse when typhoons and other calamities hit the farmers.
“Victims of high prices and capitalism, only to be victimized once more by calamities, they are truly lucky if they can recover their capital. But most of them do not turn a profit at all — sinking deeper in debt,” said Marcos.
What makes the situation worse, according to Marcos, is that there is no fund for emergency repairs of damaged irrigation systems and half-hearted implementation of projects to expand the country’s irrigation system.
Moreover, Marcos noted that the country is now flooded with cheaper agricultural products as a product of globalization and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations integration, not to mention smuggled goods.
“So how can you expect Filipino farmers to compete? In the past we were famed agricultural producer but now we are better known as importer. Not content with being importer, some unscrupulous individuals even become notorious agricultural smugglers,” Marcos said.
“We must work to increase agricultural production and raise the income of our farmers,” he added.
He said the Department of Agriculture must not only provide their traditional services to the farmers but also find answers to the problems of our agriculture sector from the point of view of the farmers themselves.