PH ain’t agri nation? Sinag says foreign chambers just want to buy our farm lands
An agriculture alliance berated foreign business groups for their veiled attempt to convince the next administration to further open the country’s agricultural lands to full foreign ownership.
SINAG or Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura in a strongly worded statement lambasted the American Chamber of Commerce and the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce of the Philippines for stating in their Arangkada 2016 Policy Note that the Philippines is no longer an agriculture country.
“This is a lame attempt to convince the next administration to pry open further the country’s agricultural lands, aquatic resources and other environmentally critical areas for foreign investment projects,” said SINAG Chair Rosendo So.
According to SINAG, these are the same foreign chambers that strongly lobbied for the country’s accession
to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the plethora of bilateral or regional trade agreements.
SINAG said these lobbyists painted a rosy picture of great economic gains from the WTO accession. But the reverse actually happened and local agriculture lost ground and regressed since then, SINAG said.
After the Philippine accession to the WTO, agriculture’s contribution to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) steeply declined from an annual average of 21-22% to 14% by 1998, or just two years since our membership to the WTO.
“And here they harp again, with another outrageous claim,” said So.
While agriculture is only contributing 10% to the GDP, So stressed that majority of the population, at the least, remains involved, directly or indirectly, to the agriculture sector.
SINAG also hit the foreign business chambers for belittling employment in agriculture.
To use the employment data is misleading since unpaid labor in the agriculture sector, seasonal workers, women and children are not considered person in the labor force by thea Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
There are 5.56 million farms/holdings covering 7.19 million hectares.
By this account, the 7.89 million parcels would mean at least 31.5 million Filipinos (at the conservative family size of 4) as being directly working in the agriculture sector.
There were also other farming communities that were not covered by this employment data.
These are seasonal workers that rely mainly on the agriculture sector for their livelihood but have no landholdings and farms to manage; and those seasonal workers that are not regular wage earners in livestock commercial farms or crop plantations and haciendas.
SINAG also noted an army of individuals and their families not necessarily considered farmers but whose livelihoods rely on the agriculture sector would fall under the services industry groups.
“There is no single industry group that can claim more Filipinos rely on them, than the agriculture sector. To say otherwise is an outright lie,” said So.
A significant portion of the manufacturing sector is even essentially agro-processing, therefore would not even exist and operate without the raw materials coming from the agriculture sector.
“If we are not an agriculture country, what are we then?,” asked So.
The priority of the next administration then is to support and promote the development of local agriculture; and not the further emasculation of the agriculture sector, as these foreign chambers would have wanted it to be.
“To allow foreign investments in agriculture is a privilege to them that we are granting; and not a right to further cripple the local agriculture industry,” So said.(30)