Groups protest vs pro-import stance of gov’t
At least 10 agricultural groups said they would boycott the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) National Food Security Summit, which was set to begin today, to protest against the government’s “pro-importation stance” when it comes to food security.
In a virtual press conference, industry leaders collectively voiced out their disdain against the agency’s policies which they described as “import-dependent and antipoor.”
“To be blunt, the government has never been serious in developing the agri-fisheries sector. It has been all about import liberalization,” said United Broilers Raisers Association (Ubra) president Elias Inciong.
“The mindset in the last 25 years … is that imports will lead to low retail prices for consumers and, at the same time, force producers to become more competitive. This certainly did not happen,” he added.
Part of why most industry leaders decided to boycott the annual summit was the DA’s stance in favor of lowering tariffs on rice and pork which, they said, would result in the demise of local industries amid the prolonged challenges brought by the coronavirus pandemic.
President Duterte recently issued two executive orders that slashed the tariffs on rice and pork and raised the import ceiling for pork. These measures were supported by the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) and the DA.
There was also the proposal to liberalize the sugar industry which, however, was shelved by the Neda.
“What is the point of going to these summits when they don’t listen to us in the first place?” said Nicanor Briones, vice president of the Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines (ProPork).
“A lot of agricultural groups were not even invited. Instead, they chose economic managers and bureaucrats to join. We might as well stage our own consultations,” he added.
Listed speakers at the summit include economists Ramon Clarete, Cielito Habito and Rolando Dy. The others are Monetary Board member Bruce Tolentino, Sen. Cynthia Villar, Tugon Kabuhayan coconvenor Norberto Chingcuanco and Agrea Philippines president Cherrie Atilano.
Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) chair Raul Montemayor described the cut in rice tariff as a “cruel joke,” adding that all the grounds for the adjustment were “baseless and deceptive” since the supply and prices of rice had been stable.
“The DA in turn has repeatedly claimed that we have ample rice supply and even announced plans to increase our output by one million tons in 2021,” he added.
Aside from ProPork, Ubra and FFF, other groups that were expected to join the boycott are the National Federation of Hog Farmers Inc., Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes Inc., Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura, Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Climate Change Network for Community-Based Initiatives, Pesticide Action Network Asia and Pacific, Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya, and Bantay Bigas. INQ
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