February 14, 2013
Philippines prepares ahead of Asean Free Trade Agreement
As the government prepares industries ahead of the removal of trade barriers under the Asean Free Trade Agreement (AFTA), the Philippine's Department of Agriculture is tapping Mindanao region as the next frontier for the country's agriculture sector.
This is according to the Department of Agriculture (DA) on Wednesday (Feb 13).
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said that the Mindanao region, with its rich agricultural and natural resources, would play a major role in the government's effort to improve competitiveness in the farm sector ahead of the trade liberalisation in 2015.
With good climate and improved peace and order situation, Alcala said that Mindanao is an ideal place to develop economies of scale geared toward achieving food sufficiency and exports capability-two things that can give the country a competitive edge once AFTA is in full implementation.
"If we will look at its batting average, despite massive typhoons that recently hit the region, Mindanao is still the best agricultural area in the country," Alcala told reporters on the sidelines of the Philippine Economic Briefing.
For this year, the DA has allotted 40% of its PHP74.1 billion (US$1.8 billion) budget for Mindanao to ramp up the development of farm infrastructure to further increase the region's output. He also said that the department will pursue the goals of improved food security and increased rural income, increased resilience to climate change risks, and enhanced policy governance.
"We want to establish more farm-to-market roads and establishment of more post-harvest and value-adding facilities to make the farm sector more competitive," he added.
Alcala said that the full implementation of AFTA can be viewed as an opportunity, particularly in the livestock and poultry subsectors in the region, to increase market access to Southeast Asian neighbours.
"There are only two countries in the world that is free from foot-and-mouth disease and bird flu, and the Philippines is one ... we want to take advantage of this status," Alcala said, noting that the region is geographically closer to the rest of Southeast Asia compared to traditional meat exporters like the US, Canada and Brazil.
Under the Asean integration plan, tariffs on most goods coming from member-countries will be brought down to zero or near zero.