February 4, 2023

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Marcos asked to protect farmers from cheap imports

Agricultural stakeholders and farmer groups on Wednesday urged President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to stand firm on his commitment to protecting farmers and fishermen from cheap imports.

The groups, in a joint statement, reminded the President of his statement that “the primary reliance on imports makes the Philippines vulnerable to supply disruptions from external factors such as the Covid pandemic, the war in Ukraine and climate change.”

“In his inaugural address, President Marcos pointed out that food is not just a tradable commodity or a source of livelihood. Eating, he stressed, is an existential imperative because without it, people become weak and die; Societies are falling apart,” the groups said, quoting the president.

However, they said that “some forces” within the Marcos administration appeared to resist the president’s policy statements.

“They are trying to continue the previous regime’s trade liberalization agenda, opening our local markets to more and cheaper imports. This is highlighted by the veiled attempt by our current economic managers to extend the executive order’s validity [EO] No. 171 – after Congress begins its December recess.”

The EO was originally issued by President Duterte in May 2021, ostensibly to counter rising pork, rice and corn prices by reducing tariffs by the end of 2022.

“Now they want to keep the low tariffs until the end of December 2023, citing the ongoing impact of Covid and the war in Ukraine. Despite the huge import volumes caused by EO 171, consumers continue to suffer from high food prices.”

The groups said the surge in imports hasn’t benefited buyers but has depressed farmgate prices.

“The treasury lost billions in revenue due to reduced tariffs. Cheap imports have further discouraged our farmers from sustaining and expanding production, resulting in even more supply shortages and greater reliance on imports. This vicious circle will continue – unless we rationalize our trade policy and align it with our goal of sustainable food self-sufficiency.”

“What President Marcos is doing with EO 171 will be a litmus test of his political will to prioritize local food production over imports and his ability to curb economic managers who take a different tack,” they said.

The groups also urged the President to consider the plight of local farmers and fishermen in light of the Philippines’ proposed membership of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade deal.

“Entry into any trade or economic agreement must be based on equality, reciprocity, mutual benefit and national interest.”

They called on the President to “broaden and deepen” consultations and participatory processes with farmers and other key stakeholders by the Ministry of Agriculture and other agencies involved in the agrofishing sector.

“This will contribute to better formulation, implementation and monitoring of policies and programs.”

Groups that have signed the joint statement include Agricultural Sector Alliance of the Philippines, Federation of Free Farmers, United Broiler Raisers Association, Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines Inc., Philippine Maize Federation, Alyansa Agrikultura, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas , Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka, Philippine Egg Board Association.