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Poultry, agri groups call for clear sector development path before RCEP ratification

Poultry and agriculture producers on Tuesday asked the government to give a “clear path for development” for their sectors before the ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

During the Senate committee hearing, United Broiler Raisers Association President Jose Inciong said there was only a path for “importation development.”

“Before you ratify, patupad ninyo muna yung design, patupad ninyo muna yung batas. Before we ratify, let us have a clear path na hindi ulit matatalo. Kasi, mababa na ho ang tiwala namin sa National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), Department of Agriculture (DA), and to a certain extent, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) kasi yung karanasan ho namin pinabayaan ho kami. Have a clear path for development. There is no path for development, there is a path for importation development,” Inciong said.

(Before you ratify, implement the design and law first. Before we ratify, let us have a clear path that will not be defeated again. Because, we have little trust in the NEDA, DA, and DTI because based on our experience, they left us in the lurch.)

“In short po the path is very clear, hindi naman po sinasabi na garantiyahan yung buhay namin. You give us a chance. The problem is NEDA, the economic managers, binabaliktad pa kami. Binigyan kami ng proteksyon? Impossible. Ang suporta nasa importer eh,” he added.

(In short, the path is very clear, we are not asking for a guarantee. You give us a chance. The problem is NEDA, the economic managers, are flipping things around. We are given protection? Impossible. The support is with the importers.)

Federation of Free Farmers national manager Raul Montemayor said that Filipino farmers wanted to be competitive against importsd.

“Ang sinasabi lang namin dito gusto namin maging competitive, gusto namin lumaban sa export market pero nasaan yung tulong ng gobyerno? We cannot do it by ourselves, and no farmer wants to be poor or unproductive, and uncompetitive,” Montemayor said.

(We want to be competitive, we want to take on the export market. But where is the government’s help?)

Senator Loren Legarda, meanwhile, echoed the concern of the poultry and agriculture producers and called on government agencies not to fixate on importation.

“I-develop muna natin ang ating mga likas na industriya, ang ating mga yaman na natural sa isang sustainable na pamamaraan, at gamitin ang katalinuhan, kagalingan, the human capital, and the natural resources, as I have said, in a sustainable way bago tayo mag-isip nang import na naman,” Legarda said.

(Let's first develop our natural industries and our natural resources sustainably and use our intelligence, human capital, and natural resources, as I have said, in a sustainable way before thinking of importing again.)

“Dapat talagang may firm commitment at you should tell us how to make our industries competitive, especially the agriculture sector. Kasi walang dahilan kung bakit tayo kailangan magutom nga sa yaman natin, sa likas yaman, at yamang dagat kaya lang ang mindset, hindi ko nilalahat po, ang iba sa gobyerno import na lang. Ano kaya mahiwaga sa import na lang at napakahilig ninyo sa importation,” she asked.

(There should be a firm commitment and you should tell us how to make our industries competitive, especially the agriculture sector. Because there is no reason why we need to go hungry. We have our natural resources and marine resources. However, the mindset, I’m not saying all but some in the government, want to just import. What is so beguiling that you are so passionate about importation?)

In response, DTI Assistant Secretary Allan Gepty agreed that the concerns had merit and there was a need for all sectors and government agencies to work together to enhance the program.

However, Gepty added, “I just want to highlight na syempre itong RCEP hindi lang agricultural and trading goods. Napagusapan kailangan yung power, na may reduce yung cost at napagausapan yung RCEP. Basically, it provides an enabling environment, sa investment aspect po malaking bagay yun kasi Philippines will need a lot of investors,”

(But I just want to highlight that of course this RCEP is not just about agricultural and trading goods. It was discussed that the power sector needs it, to have its cost reduced, and the RCEP was discussed. It provides an enabling environment, in the investment aspect which is a big thing because the Philippines will need a lot of investors.)

“Lalo na po sa environment kung paguusapan ay renewable energies. In ASEAN, for example there are certain targets, halimbawa, 23% renewable by 2025, tapos sa Philippines meron tayong national renewable energy program na 50% by 2040. I mean to achieve this we really need investors, and we really need to promote the country as an investment destination po,” he added.

(Especially when it comes to the environment, when it comes to renewable energies. In ASEAN, there are certain targets. For example, 23% renewable by 2025, then in the Philippines we have a national renewable energy program of 50% by 2040. I mean, to achieve this we need investors, and we need to promote the country as an investment destination.)

The RCEP is a free trade agreement first floated in August 2012, covering members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its partners Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri earlier said the Senate was committed to discussing and ratifying the RCEP as soon as possible.

Oversight committee

Legarda said that a special oversight committee will be created to oversee the guidelines and implementation if the RCEP is ratified.

“Aside from assuming I sponsor it and assuming it is ratified, kung maratify, may guidelines, magcre-create pa tayo ng special committee that will guide DA and DTI, and the other agencies with the NGOs and stakeholders at least every quarter para tingnan kung yung guidelines at roadmap ay napapatupad at nai-implement,” she said.

(Aside from assuming that I will sponsor it and assuming it is ratified, there should be guidelines. Let's create a special committee that will guide DA and DTI, and the other agencies with the NGOs and stakeholders, and at least every quarter to see if the guidelines and roadmap are met and implemented.)

The senator also suggested that the Senate Finance Committee Chair and Senate Majority Leader would be members of the said committee, saying that “all the guidelines and policies and programs will be assured of funding and so that in terms of policies, it can be prioritized for legislation.”

Meanwhile, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairperson Senator Imee Marcos said the agriculture and small business sectors were worried that there would be no support for them in the competition with imports.

“Hindi pa rin naibibigay ang mga pangangailangan ng mga magbubukid pansagot sa mass importation,” Marcos said in a statement.

(The needs of the farmers are still not being met in response to the mass importation.)

“Sa kasamaang palad, nabibigo ang DA, Customs, at DTI sa pagsagot sa mga ito,” she added.

(Unfortunately, the DA, Customs, and DTI failed to answer these issues.)

Marcos also recommended the creation of a subcommittee to tackle the concerns of farmers, fishermen, and small businessmen.

“Bilang, isang probinsyana, anak ng agrikultura, hindi kaya ng aking konsensya na tayuan ang RCEP kung padadapain nito ang ating mga kababayan,” she said.

(As a person who was raised in the province, my conscience will not let me support the RCEP if it will hobble our countrymen.) — DVM, GMA Integrated News