By Mortz C. Ortigoza
BAYAMBANG – A Philippine senator sees challenges instead of threat to the dawning of the Asian Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) in January this year.
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano said that there is an opportunity that comes in every problem that crops up.
‘Katulad noon pagbabago may opportunity may danger. Ang buong bansa nag lagay ng safety net. Halimbawa iyong bawang, noong galing ako sa Ilocos sinabi nga nila na maraming bawang research ngayon sa genetic fortification din to make sure na mas gaganda and malaki at mas malasa siya,” he stressed.
AFTA has an almost non-tariff exchanges of products within the 10 members Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
These countries are the Philippines, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam are voting members while Papua New Guinea is an observer in the body.
Abono Party-list Chair and Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura’s chairman Rosendo So downplayed the fear of farmers that onions and garlic that are products of this town would be affected by AFTA. He said these crops in the country have an edge against onions and garlic in the ASEAN members. Engineer So cited that cheap onion and garlic that proliferate in the market are from China while cheap meats like pork are from the United States and European countries.
He said AFTA has nothing to do with these smuggled products.
He cited that to put a stop on this malpractice, the government should put a plug on smuggling of these products in the Mindanao areas.
One of the products however affected in the country by AFTA is sugar cane, according to the administrator of the Sugar Regulatory Administration.
Ma. Regina Bautista-Martin said that in her case study, “Pump-priming for a Stronger, Globally Competitive Sugarcane Industry: Through the Sugarcane Industry Development Fund”, that despite the contribution of P88 billion in the Philippine economy from the sale of raw sugar, refined sugar, bioethanol and molasses, tolling fees of refined sugar, value-added tax (VAT) on tolling and VAT from the sale of refined sugar, the sugar industry does not receive any funds from the Department of Agriculture, either for the construction of farm-to-mill roads, sugar warehouses, irrigation or water-impounding facilities, research and development or extension services.
“If Thailand subsidizes its sugar industry, and other industries, why the Philippine government ignored this industry?” she posed.
Because of the incompetence of the government, sugar workers would be gobbled by other member countries in a regional tariff that is pegged at 5% only where sugar from Thailand can be sold at P20 a kilo versus its P40 counterparts in the Philippines.
Engineer So said that he met recently with Senator Grace Poe and discussed the implication of AFTA, agricultural trades with the U.S and Europe, and the weak policies of the Department of Agriculture on the imports from other countries.
“Gusto natin malaman kung hanggang saan sila, hanggang saan tayo kung paano ba ang export natin doon, ano ba ang hinahanap sa atin. Dapat ang sinasabi natin iyong export natin, tapos may food safety sila (other countries) doon na hindi basta-basta pumapasok ang kargamento sa kabila dapat kung ano ang safety natin dito dapat doon ganoon din,” he stressed.
Cayetano cited that land reform in the Philippines had become a problem than a solution.
“Naibigay nga ang lupa sa maliit na mga farmers, walang suporta naman doon sa pondo”.
He said it is only in the country that farmers lived in abject poverty.
“They could not eat properly despite they are the one planting for the food crops (intended for every body)”.