Impact of WTO on PHL agriculture sought

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Party-list lawmakers are seeking an inquiry on the impact of World Trade Organization (WTO) policies and programs on the local vegetable, livestock and poultry sectors.

The Makabayan bloc filed House Resolutions (HR) 796 and 797 directing the House Special Committee on Globalization and WTO to conduct the investigation and look into the impact of WTO policies on the local farm sector as government moves to amend the Agricultural Tariffication Act.

The two resolutions, filed by the Makabayan bloc composed of Anak Pawis Rep. Ariel Casilao, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, Gabriela Reps. Emmi de Jesus and Arlene Brosas, Act Teachers Reps. Antonio Tinio and France Castro and Kabataan Rep. Sarah Jane Elago cited valid grounds for scrutinizing the impact of WTO policies and programs.

The Makabayan bloc said local vegetable growers have complained of losing out to imported vegetables which flooded the local markets since 1995 after the Philippines acceded to WTO as big businessmen saw more profits from imported highland vegetables from China, Taiwan and other countries.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), they said, showed that total vegetable production of 25 vegetables from 2011 to 2016 rose by 58 percent to 1.5 million metric tons (MMT) from the levels recorded during the pre-WTO period of 1990 to 1994.

But imports rose faster at 63 percent for the same period.

Legislations

Tariffs on vegetables have been reduced since the 1980s when the government embarked on the comprehensive liberalization program under the country’s Structural Adjustment Program [SAP],” HR 796 read.

The Ramos administration passed RA 8178, replacing quantitative restrictions on agricultural products with tariffs that would be reduced by 10 to 50 percent by 2003, they said.

The law amended the Magna Carta for Small Farmers, which restricted agricultural imports that competed with local produce and RA 1296, banning the importation of regulated vegetables except for seeding purposes.

PH accession to WTO

Before WTO, the lawmakers said the country’s livestock and poultry sectors were “self-sufficient and self-reliant.”

Now, farmers are complaining that their livelihoods are threatened by cheap agricultural imports aside from problems like the inadequate support services and high production cost.

“After we became a member of the WTO, the importation of livestock and poultry products has increased with the country gravitating toward dependency on imports,” they said.

They said that from 1995 to 2014, the country imported 24,572,482 heads of live animals and 4.2 MMT.

Dairy products and meat importations rose by 67.47 percent and 797.53 percent, respectively, from 1995 to 2013.

 “Since they cannot compete with imported livestock and poultry products, local dealers compete with one another through pricing wars in which dealers in one province out-price dealers of another province while imported livestock and poultry products hold sway in the market,” it added.

They said many hog raisers have stopped production as they are forced to sell directly at low prices or slaughter their breeders after giving birth to avoid incurring big losses.