Press Release
September 29, 2013

Villar Calls on Farmers to be Globally Competitive

Senator Cynthia Villar has exhorted the farmers and other stakeholders in the agricultural sector to work together to boost their global competitiveness.

She cited the need for their collaborative efforts to increase their production, making the country food sufficient while at the same time, augmenting their income.

"It has always been the policy of the state to give our people in the agriculture sector, especially our farmers, all the necessary assistance," said Villar, who chairs the Senate committee on agriculture.

However, she clarified that there is no 'government support price" for the agricultural products like onions and garlic since they are not staple food like rice. Under the support price, the government will buy the rice from the farmers and store them in case traders won't purchase them.

But she noted the government has the so-called "shared facilities" wherein a particular group, organization or cooperative, will be given the needed facility or equipment which the farmers cannot afford to buy.

She said ACEP and the Department of Trade and Industry has a grant for that purpose. There are other sources, but the farmers should be in a group.

"Just like now, they are asking for cold storage due to the excess onions.

They want to make powdered onion or garlic. They need a facility to do that. So there can be a grant from the government because "we saw they have a place for this and they are very successful... they are very responsible," explained Villar.

"We are mandated to help cooperatives," she further said. In her opening statement before the start of the senate inquiry on the policies and practices in the importation of onions and garlic in Bongabon, Nueva Ecija, last Friday, Villar noted the country's integration to the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in two year's time or by 2015 is fast approaching.

"It will bring about competition. So we have to brace and be prepared for that," " said Villar as she acknowledged that the proliferation of imported onions and garlic in the market has adversely affected our local producers.

"And we, the consuming public, are also affected by the increase in the price of onions and garlic," said Villar.

She said all of these are against Article XII of the Constitution, which provides that: "the goals of the national economy are a more equitable distribution of opportunities, income and wealth; a sustained increase in the amount of goods and services produced by the nation for the benefit of the people; and an expanding productivity as the key to raising the quality of life for all, especially the underprivileged."

Sought for comment on how she assessed the first committee hearing involving onions and garlic, Villar said the different groups in the agriculture industry were afforded a venue to air their gripes.

"They were able to settle their differences on several matters like the import permit, which allegedly results in the monopoly on the importation of onion and garlic," said the former three-term Las Pinas congresswoman.

Meanwhile, Villar requested others who have complaints it to put into writing and attach supporting documents.

She assured to address all the complaints and find a solution to them "I am always responsive to complaints as long as they are not hearsay," noted the new senator.

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