2015 ASEAN Integration: Cooperation or Competition?
The 2014 Luzon Micro Finance Business Forum held in Baguio City last February 19 to 21 highlighted the ASEAN Integration and the accompanying concern about the possibility of cooperation or competition among the countries involved.
The National Livelihood Development Corporation (NLDC) made sure that this issue is discussed in the event and that the program partners be given their chance to raise their questions and concerns so as to prepare them well and their farmer end-borrowers for the impending integration.
Mr. Noel de Luna, Head of the International Relations Division from the Department of Agriculture guided the participants throughout the discussion. He emphasized that 2015 is a crucial year as it is the reckoning date for the ASEAN countries to lift, if not lower the tariffs and be open to zero import duties for ASEAN products and services. There will be products, and consequently, farmers who will be greatly affected, especially those who depend on sugar and rice alone. Furthermore, he noted that some of the countries have already started preparing for the integration. He added that there will be apprehensions, questions, and concerns, and urged the audience to look at the integration positively as a source for opportunities.
Issues and Concerns
Dra. Praxedes Ignacio of Mallig Plains Rural Bank, Inc. raised her concern about the prices of products like onion, rice, etc. noting that we are not yet competitive on these products compared to other countries and that many traders are buying the products of the farmers at a lower price. Mr. de Luna clarified that the government has been doing some initiatives to lower the production cost of farmers in order to achieve the target price and limit the possibilities for smuggling. He further added that in the Philippines we protect our country's products from pests and diseases by imposing pest risk analysis and import analysis right at the border.
Ms. Divina Quemi, from Nueva Segovia Consortium of Cooperatives queried on substitute products that the government is exploring of producing. In reply, Mr. de Luna clarified that DA is encouraging the production of cassava and potato to reduce our per capita consumption of rice. There are also quantitative restrictions and minimum access volume imposed when importing products, especially of rice. DA is trying to internally figure out the ups and downs of planting high-value crops as at present, the official policy of the government is food self-sufficiency.
Mr. Ernie Raymundo, Area Manager from NLDC, asked about the level of technology transfer among ASEAN countries. The IRD Head answered that the rate of transfer is still slow among the ASEAN countries but the seed technology transfer is relatively faster. He added that DA is trying to mainstream client-resilient technology, pointing out that to produce a kilo of rice, the farmers need a thousand liters of water, adding that with all these climate changes going on, DA's plan is to develop technologies that will lessen the demand for water.
The resource person urged the program partners to encourage their farmer end-clients to share to DA's Regional Development Director their concerns and experiences in farming because this action shall go a long way in improving and increasing the production of crops.