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Tuesday, February 19, 2019
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Gov’t told: Beef up the agri sector

Harvest time. Farmers inspect the cauliflower plants in a mountain village in Argao town. The business sector in Central Visayas wants the government to work on increasing agricultural production. (SunStar File)

BUSINESS owners in Central Visayas want the government to increase the region’s agricultural output.

During the Sulong Pilipinas-Cebu leg, Edward Du, regional governor of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) said Central Visayas business sector’s top recommendation is “the need to increase agricultural output through better access and improved public investment in new farm technology.”

Among the inputs from the business sector cited were for the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to ramp up their research and development efforts, as well as for the government to prioritize transforming the agriculture sector into a net exporter of high-value crops.

Du also recommended the “improvement of farmer’s income through support services and assistance.” These include financial assistance, subsidies and credit facilities for farmers, mechanisms for farmer participation in policy-making, farmer training and techniques, improved access to cheap farming inputs and irrigation systems, and more post-harvest facilities and marketing venues.

Agriculture suffered a decline of 0.4 percent in the third quarter due to the decline in the production of corn (14.4 percent), palay (5.4 percent), fishing (1.1 percent) and cassava (3.1 percent).

The drop in agricultural output was attributed to weather disturbances, which delayed the planting decisions of the farmers, said National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Director General Ernesto Pernia.

Cebu business owners want the government to pour in more investments in agriculture, saying the country should be more serious in achieving self sufficiency for agricultural products like rice, vegetables, fruits and other basic crops.

Insufficient rice supply in the market, higher prices of oil in the global market, weakening of the peso due to the increase in US interest rates, and balance of payment deficits have triggered the spike in consumer goods in the past months.

The country’s economic team assured the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (Train) Law had minimal contribution to inflation.

Boosting agriculture is seen to benefit the country in the longer-term. Besides addressing the domestic demand, a thriving agriculture sector will allow the country to also serve the food requirements of countries that have ballooning populations like China.

In their recent trade mission to the China International Import Expo in Shanghai, Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) president Antonio Tiu identified agriculture as the winning industry for the Chinese market.

Meanwhile, economist Jesus Estanislao, in past forums, has said the Philippines has to become self-sufficient to protect itself from the trade wars happening in the global market.

He stressed the need for the government to develop its resources from within to lessen its dependency on imported rice, fruits and vegetables, seafood, and other resources.

He said the Philippines can’t get away from the impact of these threats because it is a trading partner of economic powerhouses like the US, China and Japan.

Other recommendations

Besides big investments in agriculture, Du also submitted the sector’s recommendations on how the government could strengthen investor confidence in the economy.

This includes the need to implement efficient mass transport systems to ease traffic congestion; simplify loan requirements and offer low interest rates, especially for SMEs; speed up processing by the Food and Drug Administration of licenses and certificates of product registration; allow the filing and paying of taxes by SMEs online; and streamline government processes and reduce red tape.

Moreover, Du said the SME sector is supporting the government’s proposed reforms on corporate taxation.

“With regard to the Trabaho (Tax Reform for Attracting Better and High-Quality Opportunities) bill, we support the lowering of corporate income taxes. Savings from lower corporate income taxes will allow us to hire more workers, increase wages and expand our businesses,” Du said.

The sector also supports the improvements in the Ease of Doing Business (EODB) law, particularly the zero-contact policy provision, saying this will “create the most significant positive impact.”

Some 90,000 active SMEs and more than 100,000 micro enterprises that pay the current regular corporate income tax rate of 30 percent, the highest in the region, stand to benefit from the second package of the comprehensive tax reform program.

The Sulong Pilipinas forum, which is held annually and organized by an inter-agency and multi-sectoral committee convened by the Department of Finance, aims to gather the inputs and recommendations of the business sector on how the government could improve the investment climate and fulfill its goal of high and inclusive growth.


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