The revolution against poverty must begin with the defense and revival of Philippine Industry and Agriculture!

During the commemoration of the People Power I anniversary last February 25, 2002, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo called for a “new revolution against poverty” for, as she said, the true enemy of “People Power” is the scourge of poverty.

But where does this “revolution against poverty” start? Where should it be waged?

In the light of the global economic slowdown and the recession among other traditional trading partners, the Philippines clearly has no choice but to rely on it’s domestic economy to realize positive and higher growth through increased domestic consumption greater exchanges of goods and services among the regions, and more productive linkages between industry and agriculture. With a population of around 80 million in an archipelago of 7,000 islands, a domestic-led growth is not only feasible but also sustainable.

Unfortunately, the Philippine agro-industrial base has been badly eroded during the three decades. Instead of crafting an enabling agro-industrial programs some of our policy makers simply pushed for a one-sided type of economic liberalization such as the unilateral tariff reductions for the industrial and agricultural sectors that have caused the collapse or near ruin of many local industries such as steel, cement, tile, rubber, battery, garments, poultry, shoes, coconut, rice, onion, and garlic. This is in sharp contrast to what other countries did, for example, the People’s Republic of China which opted for gradual and calibrated liberalization program side with the accelerated strengthening and modernization of industry and agriculture, supplemented with hard bargaining with institutions such as the World Trade Organization.

With the radical reduction of tariffs, our industries and agricultural sector have been devastated by the unimpeded flow of foreign goods that eat into our domestic market displacing locally manufactured or grown products. Since it is cheaper to import than to manufacture in a high-cost economic environment, many manufacturing concerns have either fled the country to cheaper havens have been shut down, or in some cases, simply converted into trading or importing operations. And despite the existing regime of low tariffs, the country is still being flooded with duty-free and tax-free imports that are smuggled into

the country, shipload by shipload, right under the noses of our customs officials and police officers.

Clearly we cannot benefit from the stimulating impact of additional consumer spending (and ‘holiday economics’ allowing employees more days off) if our own industries are not protected against the unfair and predatory practices of foreign competitors and from rampant smuggling. What is the value added to our economy if imported goods dominate the market rather than the goods made by tax-paying Filipino working and local businesses that benefit communities?

And what is worse, while we continue to maintain an open economy, our own export luxuries are unable to freely enter the markets of other countries. For examples, Philippine fruits can enter Australia only after undergoing strict, costly and time-consuming phyto-sanitary screening process, while Philippine tuna can only land in Europe at an effective tariff rate of 30 percent.

Thus, if we are to combat poverty in these difficult times, we must begin by defending and reviving our own industries and agriculture. We must protect the jobs of our workers and the livelihood of our farmers. We must promote and patronize the products of our local producers. We must support the enterprise of our domestic entrepreneurs, both big and small. We must strictly implement the safety nets and safeguard measures for our industries and agriculture, which were legislated precisely to prevent unfair trading practices committed by other countries such as dumping excess products at prices below their own domestic selling prices.

For if we fail to protect and sustain our own industries and agriculture, even our own consumers will disappear because the collapse of industries means the elimination of jobs, as what has been happening in the industrial sector for quite sometime now. No nation can thrive on consumption without the jobs and industries to provide income for the consumers – unless we want to become totally dependent on the transport of labor despite its mounting social costs to Filipino families and values.

While economic globalization is indeed a global reality, we must arm and protect ourselves against the unfair and predatory trading practices of other countries. We should not allow globalization to be used to undermine our industries and agriculture. Globalization is meaningless, if not a curse if we, as a nation cannot enhance productive capabilities, create jobs and promote the general well-being of people.

Thus, we call for the review of Philippine trade policy. The unbridled and one-sided liberalization program to which Philippine industries have been rejected to in the last three decades must end – now! We must reexamine our trade policies in order to align them with our national interest. We must guided by the need to defend and strengthen our local industries and agriculture, our jobs and our future

We call on the Government to impose and enforce all the needed safeguards for our industry and agriculture to survive and prosper – now! The United States itself, the supposed leader and global promoter of free trade, does not hesitate to defend its own industry and jobs as demonstrated by it recent unilateral action imposing 30 per-cent tariff on imported steel. Unfettered free trade should stop where national interests are at risk.

Hence, we ask the Philippine Government to respond positively and decisively the applications for final and definitive safeguard measures on strategic local industries. The resolution on the cases currently being heard by the Tariff Commission will give a clear signal as to the readiness of the Government to deal with the unfair trading practices of other countries and demonstrate the political will to save jobs and industry.

We also call on the Government to enact stronger anti-smuggling laws and enforcement programs. We also demand a general review of the tariff policy for tariff should be used to enhance, not destroy, the productive capabilities of the country.

Finally, we call on all Filipinos to unite in the collective defense of local industry and agriculture. We, the people, must lead in the defense of our local industries and agriculture and jobs by exercising our market power. We must consciously choose to patronize locally-manufactured and grown products, and reject dumped imports and smuggled products. For we cannot afford to lose our future for a few pesos of discount.







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