Marcos needs to fix smuggling to unlock benefits of trade for agriculture — PCCI

PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., who is also the Secretary of Agriculture, needs to address smuggling in order for trade to help bring down the price of farm goods, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) said.

“(Mr. Marcos) should look at agriculture from the point of view of not just production but also from the trade aspect. It is supply and demand. If the production of farmers is only up to a certain level, but the demand is much bigger, we have to import,” PCCI President George T. Barcelon said in chance remarks in Makati City last week.

Mr. Barcelon said imports must be “properly done,” in a manner that does not open opportunities for smugglers. Smuggled produce, he said, contributes to the high prices of farm commodities.

“I hope (Mr. Marcos) deploys political will to make the agriculture sector really catch up,” Mr. Barcelon said.

Mr. Barcelon had been asked for his views after Mr. Marcos said he wants to solve the food crisis before stepping down as the Agriculture Secretary.

“I think the President knows the seriousness of it, that’s why he is taking the bull by the horns,” Mr. Barcelon said.

If imports are “properly done, the government can collect taxes; at the same time, the price of staple items will not be so high,” Mr. Barcelon said.

“Prices are (artificially high) … I think the President is cognizant of that and moving forward, I think that can be dealt with,” he added.

Meanwhile, Mr. Barcelon said the next Agriculture Secretary to be appointed should enjoy the President’s confidence.

He said the PCCI has a shortlist of potential candidates for the position, but gave out no names.

“What is important is you need to have somebody who has the trust of the President… You have to get somebody who will be able to share his or her thoughts to convince the President,” Mr. Barcelon said.

“The recommendations for the position may not be politically palatable to some sectors of our community. But if the President feels that this will bring about the betterment of the general population, so be it,” he added.

In May, the Philippine Statistics Authority announced that the value of Philippine agricultural production rose 2.1% to P428.69 billion in the first quarter. The farm sector typically accounts for about a 10th of the gross domestic product. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave