PH agri not ready for Asean integration–Ofreneo | Inquirer News

PH agri not ready for Asean integration–Ofreneo

/ 08:00 AM September 25, 2014

DAVAO CITY—Philippine agriculture is not ready for the integration next year of economies of Association of Southeast Asian Nation (Asean) member-countries, according to one of the country’s top labor and

industrial relations experts.

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At a forum here, former labor undersecretary Dr. Rene Ofreneo said should Asean integration take place at the stage Philippine agriculture is in now, it would have devastating effects on Filipino farmers and businesses.

“Failure to modernize and diversify makes Philippine agriculture unable to compete in the Asean free market,” said Ofreneo, former dean of the school of labor and industrial relations at the University of the Philippines.

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“Declining investments, both public and private, in agriculture have led to declining productivity, deficient value addition and poor job creation,” he said at the forum organized by the Asia-

Pacific Network for Food Security (APNFS) and the Manila-based Integrated Rural Development Foundation (IRDF).

He said the thrust to liberalize the Philippine economy is not matched by efforts to increase productivity through mechanization.

Ofreneo said that even among other Asean members, strong state support for agriculture, which is lacking in the Philippines, is the driving force for economic growth.

The scheduled Asean integration in 2015 aims to transform the region into a single market and production base where goods, services, investments, skilled labor and capital move freely and compete in the global market.

He said another component lacking in the Philippines is a successful land reform program.

“Successful land reform (programs) in countries like Japan, Korea and Taiwan have shown that the equalizing effect of land redistribution was the necessary foundation for rural development and rural industries,” he said.

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In contrast, he said, the Philippines’ Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) continues to be mired in ideological conflicts and bureaucratic bungling, resulting in an unfinished program facing legal cases that are expected to bug CARP beyond 2016, said Ofreneo.

“The Left seeks genuine agrarian reform that is confiscatory, the Right wants the government to let go of CARP or CARPER,” he said.

“The Moderates, meanwhile, want an extension and a bigger budget for support programs. With all the competing demands, no wonder we can’t move land reform forward,” he said.

Ofreneo said because of the divisiveness, a damaged Philippine agricultural sector may not be able to withstand Asean integration in 2015. Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao

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TAGS: Agrculture, Asean, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), Integration
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