12 new agriculture commandments | Inquirer Business
Commentary

12 new agriculture commandments

Twelve recommendations for a thriving agriculture were agreed and improved upon by then presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Dec. 6. With him winning the elections, these should now be treated by the bureaucracy as commandments if we are to achieve a meaningful development in the sector.

The 12 directions originally came from a historic document entitled “Transform Agriculture for Food Security, Job Creation, and Balanced Growth” signed by five coalitions representing farmers, fisherfolk, etc.

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These are:

1) Government must recognize agriculture and fisheries as the main provider of food security and economic recovery. They should be treated as lead actors, not as mendicants or targets of assistance.

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2) Agrifisheries should at least get double it’s current 1.7-percent share of the national budget and get closer to Vietnam’s 6.5 percent and Thailand’s 3.6-percent shares. Strict public-private sector budget monitoring is needed amid the 2020 Commission on Audit report of P22 billion in unliquidated expenses by the Department of Agriculture (DA).

3) Emphasis should be on domestic production with focus on productivity and profitability and not importation. Safeguards and other trade measures should be provided to address serious market disruptions and unfair trade practices

4) Fair allocation of support should be given to commodities other than rice, including high-value crops. Like in rice, tariffs collected from a sector should be earmarked for that sector.

5) The DA should lead the shift from monocropping to localized diversified production systems and cluster-cooperative-community-based approaches in value adding and marketing. Credit and insurance should be provided, alongside mechanization, digital technology and appropriate innovations.

6) More investments must go to market, postharvest and processing infrastructure to cut production losses and decrease consumer costs. The legally mandated market and business information systems must immediately be set up.

7) With the immense potential of our territorial and inland waters, a Department of Fisheries and Marine Resources should be created. Our sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea must be asserted to protect our farmers and fish supply.

8) The DA must establish a strong partnership with local government units on capacity-building for agriculture support services. An effective province-led agriculture and fisheries extension system should be implemented. But as Marcos correctly qualified during the Dec. 6 interview, this must be closely supervised by a central planning office.

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9) Representation and involvement of farmers, fisherfolk and other stakeholders must be at both national and local levels. Private sector representatives in agrifishery boards and councils should have a track record in service, not politically determined.

10) Women should be empowered. They should have the same access as men to equipment, resources, credit and technical support. There should also be creative programs to involve the youth in agriculture.

11) Agrarian reform must be accompanied by support services. If not, since it has failed in too many cases, this complete system must be implemented in both private and public lands.

12) A national land and water use law must be enacted. This is necessary to conserve our soil, water, biodiversity and other natural resources.

Unfortunately, two commandments—stakeholder participation (item 9) and beneficial international trade negotiation (item 2)—were recently violated. There was a World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in Geneva from June 12 to June 15 and also a draft Ministerial Decision on Agriculture, but the DA did not inform the stakeholders about these.

Stakeholders are now asking the DA for an emergency meeting. It is expected that the bureaucracy will now follow Marcos’ lead by obeying these 12 commandments—our only hope for a better agriculture.

The author is Agriwatch chair, former secretary of presidential flagship programs and projects, and former undersecretary of the DA and the Department of Trade and Industry. Contact is [email protected]

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