Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) Congressman Win Gatchalian has scored the Aquino administration for its lack of commitment in improving the agriculture sector after its less than a percent growth was recorded by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA)
While the services sector leapt to 7.3 percent from 5.6 percent, leading the year-on-year 6.0-percent growth in the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in the 3rd quarter, the agriculture sector, however, only moved by 0.4 percent from a 2.6-percent decline posted during the same period last year.
Gatchalian described the performance of agriculture as “dismal,” recalling that for agriculture, hunting, forestry, and fishing only grew 1.1 percent for the period 2012-2013 and 1.6 for 2013-2014.
The country’s GDP, meanwhile, grew by 6.8 percent in 2012, 7.2 percent in 2013, and 6.1 percent in 2014.
The dismal growth of the agricultural sector has undoubtedly contributed to the persistent poverty among fisherfolk and farmers, who, despite the country economic growth, remain to be among the poorest basic sectors aside from children, with poverty incidence at 39.2 percent and 38.3 percent, respectively, in 2012.
Gatchalian, a majority member for the House Committee on Trade and Industry, said the next government administration should not fail to prioritize the agriculture sector given its potential to mitigate poverty in the country and that it should recognize the importance of agriculture in both economic growth and poverty alleviation.
“Economic growth that neglects the majority of the population, especially the poor, is obscene. The government exists to make sure everyone, especially the poor, has equal access to resources. Nobody should be left behind,” Gatchalian argued.
Agriculture employs the biggest number of employed persons next to the services sector, with 28 percent in July 2015 according to PSA.
The Valenzuela City lawmaker believes that under a Grace Poe presidency, no Filipino will be left behind. “Every Filipino will be afforded the opportunities necessary to partake of the economic gains.”
Gatchalian proposed that performance-based incentives in agriculture should be promoted to make our local sector competitive against our Southeast Asian neighbors and be prepared for trade liberalization.
The NPC senatorial bet further maintained that government should identify provinces that have the potential to be regionally competitive and provide them with resources so they can keep pace with our Asean neighbors.
“Other provinces, meanwhile, should be given adequate support in shifting to alternative cash crops. The government has to focus on identifying comparative advantages. It has to be more strategic in deploying its resources,” he said.
“In addition, the government should invest in enhancing the resiliency of agricultural communities to climatic shocks. We need to shift our way of thinking. Investing in dikes, dams, and floodways – preferably within an integrated flood control infrastructure system will strengthen the capacity of our farmers to withstand climatic shocks,” Gatchalian explained.
In the data from the PSA, the services sector gave the highest contribution to the GDP growth with 4.3 percentage points, followed way behind by industry with 1.8 percentage points and agriculture with 0.03 percentage point. (Monica Cantilero)