By Jefferson Antiporda | The Manila Times
The government’s neglect of the agricultural sector not only made life more difficult for farmers but also put the country’s food security at risk, according to Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
Marcos said the lack of sound agricultural policies is the main reason why the country’s agricultural sector remained in the doldrums compared to other countries in Southeast Asia, some of which got farming knowledge from the Philippines.
The senator cited as example the “frightening statistics” uncovered during a recent hearing of the Senate public works committee that irrigated areas today has shrunk compared to that in 1986.
“That means since 1986 we have not added anything to our existing irrigation system. Worse, the damaged areas were not repaired and rehabilitated when we all know that the most important factor for farmers to improve their production is sufficient water for irrigation,” he noted.
The administration, for the past five years, also failed to introduce programs to be able to achieve rice self-sufficiency. From being a net exporter of rice at one time, the Philippines has now become the biggest rice importer in the world.
“Every year, we hear bold claims from the government that we will finally achieve rice self-sufficiency. Barely a month later, we will hear reports that we will again be importing rice, in even greater amounts compared to the previous importations,” Marcos pointed out.
The senator lamented that the government has abandoned its program of providing crucial support to farmers such as credit facilities, research and development and market information.
Marcos said the administration has done very little in preparing the agricultural sector for the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nation) integration, which would lift tariffs among member nations.
“This means we now have to compete with our ASEAN neighbors in the regional market and agriculture is one of the biggest sectors in that regional market. Sadly, our cost of production is high and our volume of production is low compared to our neighboring countries,” Marcos pointed out.
He said if he will be given a chance to lead the country he will prioritize crafting good policy for the agriculture sector since it serves as the foundation of the economy and crucial in ensuring food security.
“If a country cannot feed itself then the country is in a precarious situation,” Marcos stressed.