Press Release
May 19, 2009

Villar: Protect farmers and agri-entrepreneurs

Nacionalista Party President Senator Manny Villar is urging the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, through Senate Resolution 1934, to conduct an inquiry on the influx of cheap vegetables from other countries in the local market, which is disadvantageous to local farmers.

Villar cited, "Over-supply of imported or smuggled cheap agricultural products destroys local economies because our own vegetable farmers and suppliers find it difficult to compete. We should insulate our small-scale farmers from this."

The former Senate President cited figures from agriculture group Alyansa Agrikultura that foregone government revenue amounts to P117 to P125 billion yearly, due to rampant smuggling. Villar also supports the agri group's call to stop the practice of the Bureau of Customs of using auctions in disposing smuggled agricultural products.

"I learned that the apprehended smuggled goods are offered for auction and this opens an opportunity for smugglers to buy back the goods or products at low prices. The smugglers are in collusion with syndicates in this practice, which has to be stopped. We should implement other methods of getting rid of smuggled goods," said Villar.

Villar's proposed Senate Resolution cited in particular that farmers have expressed increased concern as the Philippines is poised to implement the free tariff policy on imported vegetables starting next year as agreed in the World Trade Organization-General Agreement on Tariff and Trades (WTO-GATT).

According to Villar, "This will result to greater influx of cheap vegetables particularly garlic and onions from China and India, which threaten the livelihood of Filipino farmers. In fact, an agricultural official admitted that 50 percent of vegetables being sold in Southern Mindanao alone came from China."

Likewise, Villar said the Department of Agriculture's proposal to the Philippine Export Zone Authority to create a special economic zone for agriculture-related investments should also be thoroughly studied and considered.

"An economic zone especially for projects or businesses related to the agriculture sector would help attract more foreign investments. This will also create more opportunities as well as incentives for agri-entrepreneurs. We need to support the agriculture sector because farming and food are among the most resilient businesses even during the recession," said Villar.

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