Agri problems not due to imports; RCEP has 'immediate' benefits: economist


Posted at Feb 22 2023 12:48 PM | Updated as of Feb 22 2023 04:14 PM

Rice Farmer Rey Rodriguez looks out to the farm in Guimba Nueva Ecija, on September 02, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
Rice Farmer Rey Rodriguez looks out to the farm in Guimba Nueva Ecija, on September 02, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Philippines' agricultural problems are not due to imports, Foundation for Economic Freedom President Calixto Chikiamco said on Wednesday, as he allayed fears that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) would hurt farmers.

The country has very low agricultural productivity which can be addressed by a series of reforms, Chikiamco told Teleradyo. Among the areas of focus include the small sizes of farms in the country, he said. 

"Ang problema ng agrikultura sa Pilipinas has nothing to do with imports kasi napaka baba ng ating productivity. What we have to do is focus on increasing agricultural productivity. Hindi kasalanan ng ibang bansa yan. Kasalanan natin yan ang productivity natin ay napaka baba," he said. 

(The problem with agriculture has nothing to do with imports because we have very low productivity... It's not the other countries' fault. It's our fault that our productivity is low.)


Chikiamco said RCEP could have "immediate benefits" as it would encourage investors to set up shop in the Philippines which would give them tariff-free access to member nations. They can also leverage the country's young workforce.

The Senate on Tuesday approved the ratification of RCEP, which is a free trade agreement among the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. 

Without RCEP, he said, the country has lower chances of being considered an investment destination. 

"Ang mga investors papasok 'yan sa Pilipinas para ma-access 'yung markets na 'yon. Magbibigay ng employment. magsesetup yan ng mga pabrika dito para makapag export sila sa mga bansang 'yan," he said.

(Investors will come in to access those markets. They will create employment, they will set up factories here so they can import to member countries)

He said the trade deal also offers protection for "sensitive items" as it doesn't impose tariff cuts on rice, corn, pork, poultry meat, potatoes, onions, garlic, coffee and sugar, among others.

Both Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno and National Economic and Development Authority Secretary Arsenio Baliscan said the Philippines would benefit from the trade deal.

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