Diokno to Duterte: Pour massive investments into agri sector
Former budget secretary Benjamin Diokno said presumptive president Rodrigo Duterte’s agricultural development strategy is good but requires massive public infrastructure investments, farm inputs and research and development.
Diokno, in his column on Duterte’s eight-point economic agenda published in Malaya Business Insight, said he agrees that a genuine agricultural development strategy could be realized by providing support services to small farmers to increase their productivity, improve their market access, and develop the agricultural value chain by forging partnership with agribusiness firms.
Diokno said agriculture grew by an average 1.6 percent under the Aquino administration and was “practically flat” at 0.2 percent last year. He said the sector is expected to contract by a negative single digit this year.
He said agriculture should grow by at least 3 percent every year, given the annual population growth of about 2 percent, agriculture should grow by at least 3 percent every year.
“But for this to happen, it requires massive public infrastructure investment (farm-to-market roads, irrigation facilities including small water impounding projects), fertilizer, high-yielding seeds, and investment in research and development,” he said.
Diokno also agreed that bottlenecks in land administration and management should be addressed and that idle lands should be used.
He said the World Bank noted that a big chunk of land in the Philippines is untitled and majority of land owned by agrarian reform beneficiaries is in the nature of collective, not individual, titles.
Titling of untitled land should be the focus of the next administration. If done, it would bring about much needed capital in the rural areas, he said.
“The eight-point economic program is an excellent start. But the devil is in the details. In the next few days and weeks, Mr. Duterte’s team should put flesh and blood to its skeletal eight-point framework. He should identify the men and women who will carry out the program. Finally, he should reveal the strategy for managing the reform process, the timing, and sequencing of reforms,” he added.