By Rjhay E Laurea
MANILA — The United Broilers and Raisers Association (UBRA) has opposed the reappointment of Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William D. Dar who endorsed a regime of importation and the “vested interests” of importers “at the expense” of farmers it said.
In an open letter to President-elect Ferdinand Bongbong R. Marcos Jr., UBRA said the Philippines and its farmers became sacrificial lambs on Dar’s import rule that failed to reduce prices.
They believed it was such a foolish neo-liberalist position that they ignored the Philippines’ resources to achieve “food sovereignty.”
“He (Dar) has been completely subservient to the misguided emphasis on import liberalization. The reality is that whether accidentally or intentionally, it has conveniently benefitted mainly the vested interests of importers at the expense of the majority of our people,” UBRA said led by its president, Atty. Jose Elias M. Inciong.
“Retail prices have remained high despite increasing importation through the years. It has made us dependent on overseas employment and business process outsourcing,” they pointed out.
UBRA said that in Dar’s term (2020), Commission on Audit (COA) found P9.454 billion in disallowances, audit suspension, and charges, P17.542 billion in overdue fund transfers to applying for agencies and non-government organizations, P20.21 billion unliquidated fund transfers in prior years, and P9.806 billion back to the national treasury.
They pointed out that Dar will be worsening Philippines’ weakness to climate change, consequently, food security.
This is as water source for rice farming has been negatively limited by conflict posed by China and droughts in countries where Philippines sources its food imports.
“In Indochina, the area most relied upon by neoliberal economists for our rice imports, there has been saltwater incursion in the Mekong Delta up to at least 15 kilometers. Dams built by China have interrupted the flow of the Mekong River from its source,” Ubra said in the letter also signed by its chairman Gregorio San Diego.
“In the Indian subcontinent, another source of rice imports, droughts are becoming perennial. The same with the whole of the United States. The lakes along Rio Colorado are at 30% or normal levels. Australia has had drought problems for years. There is an increasing trend for banning export of food,” they added.
For UBRA, it will be the Marcos’s administration’s biggest fault to reappoint Dar.
“He has been openly and aggressively campaigning to be retained as secretary of Agriculture. Please do not succumb to his shameless self-promotion and propaganda. As aptly stated by Senate President Tito Sotto in a committee hearing on smuggling, that would be the ‘biggest mistake’ of the next administration,” they said.
While some import liberalists argue that Singapore is a progressive food-importing nation, UBRA said “Singapore itself has decided to increase its level of self reliance given its limitations.”
Singapore aims to lower its food importation from 90% to 70% despite its small population.
“Secretary Dar’s tenure has been about importation from heavily subsidized agricultural systems. We are on very dangerous ground because he implemented import liberalization to the hilt. It (reappointing Dar) will not be an act of shooting oneself in the foot but in the head,” said UBRA. (ai/mtvn)