Public infra investments to focus on farm sector
MANILA, Philippines—The agriculture sector, which accounts for a significant portion of the country’s poor and underemployed, will be a key focus of public investments in infrastructure, technology and other competitiveness measures under the country’s revised development plan through 2016.
This was disclosed by the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), which said yesterday that the government intended to see a more competitive and productive agriculture sector by the end of the Aquino administration.
It said the agriculture sector would be given more attention than it used to in the government’s latest poverty-reduction strategy.
The updated PDP, which will detail development programs and measures to be undertaken in the remaining three years of the Aquino administration, is set to be released before the end of this year.
“Increasing agricultural productivity will support the necessary structural transformation of the economy and is a key factor to poverty reduction in rural areas,” said Mercedita Sombilla, director of the agriculture, natural resources and environment division of the Neda.
Without providing cost of investment prior to the release of the PDP, Sombilla said public investments would be made in research and development (R&D), training for development of human capital and initiatives that will address factors that have constrained the growth of the sector.
These constraints would include inefficient infrastructure, degradation of natural resources, farmers’ lack of market access and lack of agribusiness opportunities, she said.
Sombilla said the specific objectives for the agriculture sector were to achieve a diversification of products, boost production and establish linkage of farmers to domestic and international markets.
As far as the coconut and fisheries sub-sectors are concerned, for instance, the official said the government has developed integrated development programs.
The programs are expected to boost the productivity of the sub-sectors and enhance the value of their products through a combination of training, infrastructure development and identification of markets, among others.
The programs will be co-implemented by the departments of agriculture, trade and industry, science and technology, and public works and highways, and the National Anti-Poverty Commission, among other agencies.
The focus on the agriculture sector comes with the economic analysis that poverty incidence in the country remained significant because of the sector’s underperformance.
The agriculture sector, which employs about 30 percent of the country’s labor force, contracted by 0.3 percent in the second quarter from a year ago. Its performance, therefore, paled in comparison with the industry sector’s 10.3-percent expansion and the services sector’s 7.4-percent growth.
Latest poverty statistics showed that in the first semester of 2012, the poorest regions of the country were the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, Soccsksargen, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula and Northern Mindanao. Official government data showed that 46.9 percent of families lived below poverty line in ARMM, 37.5 percent in Soccsksargen, 36.9 percent in Zamboanga Peninsula, and 35.6 percent in Northern Mindanao.
Their poverty rates were higher than the national average of 22.3 percent of Filipino families.
The national capital region, which includes cities in Metro Manila, had the lowest poverty rate among families at 3.8 percent.
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