An agriculture advocacy party-list group on Saturday asked senators to “permanently bury” the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and closely review all future trade liberalization proposals due to the “grievous harm” such trade pacts inflict on Philippine agriculture, with small farmers bearing the brunt of the whiplash.
“We should learn from history, in particular on how the accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995 brutally affected Philippine agriculture. The WTO caused the massive loss of agricultural jobs, the dumping of agricultural goods into the country, the erosion in the gross value added (GVA) of the sector,” former Rep.Cecil Chavez, who was the nominee of Butil party-list group in the previous Congress, said Chavez said the accession proponents promised that the accession would be the version of an agricultural renaissance, a “utopia of sorts.”
“The reverse happened, and Philippine agriculture lost whatever residual strength it had pre-accession.”
The Senate’s ratification of the RCEP would exacerbate the multiple woes of the agriculture sector and snuff out whatever small chances remain for its rebound and recovery, Chavez added.
Instead of joining more harm-causing free-trade pacts, the Senate must update the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act, as well as push for sustained and aggressive funding of the core AFMA programs, the former Butil congressman said.
Butil said “the AFMA dream of building thriving agricultural and fishery zones in many areas of the country should be pursued with vigor and this is the only way we can compete in the global agricultural trade.”
The Senate should return to the basics, which means transforming Philippine agriculture into a vibrant, competitive sector like what our ASEAN neighbors have done, the group said.
Chavez added the senate should set aside acting on trade pact proposals until after the basic work of making the agriculture sector is over and done with.
“The rising food prices, short food supplies, and gridlock food supply systems should also push the Congress to do the fundamental work of fully supporting the agriculture sector,” she said.