Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. today expressed concern that the State of the Nation Address (SONA) of the President did not include agriculture, which is the backbone of the Philippine economy.
“The foundation of our economy is agriculture, yet it was not mentioned at all,” Marcos noted.
He pointed out 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 Governor Elias Bulut, Jr. on the roads constructed in his province.
Apart from these instances, the SONA was silent on the issue of agriculture, Marcos noted.
“It is alarming because we are now entering the full implementation of the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) 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 said.
When AFTA was signed in 1992, all ASEAN countries committed to reduce their commercial tariffs by 2015.
Marcos echoed the concerns of business leaders and economists that the Philippines has not taken adequate preparations for the full implementation of AFTA.
“We have not heard anything about the government’s program to support agriculture when we know that majority of our farmers are poor,” Marcos said.
“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,” he added.
Official government statistics show that agriculture grew by 1.78 percent in the first quarter of 2015 compared to the same period last year.
“Improved performances were noted in the crops, livestock and poultry subsectors, but the fisheries subsector posted a decline during the period. At current prices, agriculture grossed P380.1 billion, lower by 1.65 percent than last year's record,” a report of the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics said.
Marcos has filed several bills in the Senate to support the country’s agricultural sector, including Senate Bill No. 112 or the “National Seeds Production Act” and Senate Bill No. 14, or the “National Irrigation Program”.
Recently, Marcos 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.