The Philippines on Monday signed agricultural deals with Thailand, three months before it scraps a quantitative restriction on rice imports under an agreement with the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The agricultural agreement encompasses information exchange concerning best practices in irrigation, livestock and fisheries, and technology for soil and water conservation, said President Rodrigo Duterte in a joint statement with Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
“The Philippines and Thailand have vibrant economic relations with a trade value of almost $8 billion in 2016. We have yet to reach the limit of our potentials. That is why we also recognize the importance of cooperation in agriculture…our agricultural sector should drive national growth,” he said.
Thailand is one of the Philippines’ primary sources of imported rice. In December, the National Food Authority (NFA) said private traders would import 284,780 tons of rice from Thailand. This is in addition to 250,000 tons that the NFA bought in August last year from Vietnam and Thailand.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol said last year that he would need 2 more years to strengthen Filipino rice farmers’ capacity to compete with their peers in Vietnam and Thailand.
While cheaper imports would bring down retail costs of the country’s staple grain, it would pose a threat to Filipino farmers’ livelihoods, because production costs in those countries are cheaper and output more plentiful.
The Philippines is set to host the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' (ASEAN) Second Meeting of the Joint Agricultural Working Group in 2019.
Aside from agriculture, the Philippines also forged agreements with Thailand regarding tourism, and the promotion of exchanges that aim to enhance their capacities for science and technology.
The two countries also agreed to ensure security and stability in the region, and address issues particularly terrorism, sea piracy, and illegal trafficking of drugs and people.
They also stressed the need to maintain peace and stability in the region, including the South China Sea.
“We emphasize the need for the full and effective implementation of the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and express determination to complete the Framework of the Code of Conduct in 2017,” Duterte said.
Duterte visited Myanmar on Sunday, before he flew to Thailand on Monday.