MANILA – A party-list lawmaker on Monday called for significant increases in direct cash and in-kind subsidies to farmers, fisherfolk and livestock raisers as part of a multi-year economic stimulus package from 2024 to 2028.
Bagong Henerasyon Party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera made the call, as she noted the "flat growth" in the agriculture sector output, which was at 0.5 percent for the whole year and negative 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter.
"It is clear that the current levels of agriculture subsidies are not enough. We must save our farmers and fisherfolk from poverty and unemployment," Herrera said. "The agriculture sector clearly needs these subsidies to boost its economic output and reduce unemployment and underemployment."
She also stressed the need to modernize the agriculture sector by focusing on heavy agri-tech inputs.
"We must have much more vertical farming, indoor farms, fish and seafood hatcheries, more fish farms, and more organic farming... We must have ways to channel runoff water and floodwaters into aqueducts and irrigation," she said.
She, however, was elated by the fact that the country’s gross domestic product last year grew by 7.2 percent in the fourth quarter and by 7.6 percent for the whole year, which means the annual growth target range of 7.0 percent to 9.0 percent.
"This growth could have been higher but there are still some businesses recovering and some sectors were still hesitant to return to full in-person operations. This growth could have been higher if not for the high inflation we have had especially in 2022," she said.
She highlighted that the government expenditure component of the gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 5 percent and that consumer confidence in the Philippine economy surged as shown by the 8.3 percent jump in household final consumption expenditure.
She said the entire local economy had a total output of PHP19.9 trillion in 2022, which is a recovery from PHP17.5 trillion in 2020 and PHP18.5 trillion from 2021, or the "worst years of the pandemic".
"If there was no pandemic and if inflation was not elevated, our GDP could have been PHP21 trillion plus last year I think. So, we really must have a sustainable exit strategy and an effective program against inflation by reducing supply, production, distribution, and public spending problems," she said.
On Friday, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. said his administration intends to attract more investments to sustain the growth momentum of the Philippine economy. (PNA)