Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr. said the Philippines must adopt a firm policy to protect its agricultural and service sectors from the negative impact of excessive liberalization of tariffs and related policies mandated by its obligations to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
"While our government attempts to abide by its WTO commitments, we have to provide the necessary support to our farmers, not only to make them more competitive, but also to protect them against further hardships because of cheap imports and technical smuggling," the Vice President pointed out in an interview.
He said the government must take stronger action to check technical smuggling of farm products while also considering raising import tariffs for imported agricultural products, which enjoy heavy subsidies in [foreign] countries and can, thus, be easily dumped into developing countries like the Philippines.
"We provide practically no price support to our farmers," Guingona said, "while the rich nations like the United States and those in Europe provide billion upon billions of dollars in subsidies to their agricultural sector."
"How can the life of our farmers improve when it continues to be cheaper for traders to import corn from Australia, and if we are flooded by imported garlic from Taiwan and China, which is usually priced just a third of local garlic?" the Vice President asked.
"It is laudable that there are moves to improve the transportation of our agricultural products, like the so-called nautical highway, but we still have a long way to go toward cutting down actual transport costs and improving postharvest facilities," Guingona added.
Referring to the upcoming WTO meetings in Cancun, Mexico, late this year, Guingona also cited the continuing pressures to open the services sector to foreign companies, including communication and educational services, construction and engineering, banking and insurance, and cultural and sporting services.
"We must maintain a vigilant and protective posture, with particular regard to maintaining the protection mantle of the Constitution, mandating and guaranteeing, among others Filipino ownership, control and operation of public utilities and educational institutions," he pointed out.