MANILA—Growth in productivity and competitiveness of the agriculture and fisheries sector remains a key goal of the Philippine government for poverty reduction towards inclusive growth, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA). 

“In the updating of the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2011-2016, the government continues to uphold the elements that will meet the challenges of transforming agriculture and fishery into a highly productive and competitive sector that not only meets the country’s food requirements but also offers better income and employment opportunities,” said NEDA Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment Staff Director Mercedita A. Sombilla. 

Sombilla, who spoke on behalf of Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan during the 49th Biennial Convention of the Philippine Agricultural Economics and Development Association (PAEDA) in Bukidnon, identified the main constraints to further increasing productivity in agriculture. These constraints, she said, include inadequacy of efficient infrastructure system, degradation of natural resources that has been further threatened by climate-related risks, and slow development of agri-business opportunities. 

“In this regard, improving agricultural productivity requires measures and strategies such as investing in human capital development and research and development,” she added. 

Sombilla said that the updated PDP 2011-2016 calls for appropriate policies and more investments in agricultural public goods and support services that would increase production, enhance the capacity of the sector for value adding, diversifying production, and establishing market linkages throughout the supply chain. 

“To encourage farmers to invest, policies will be enhanced to secure long-term individual property rights and to insure farmers against risks such as weather-related shocks,” she said. 

Sombilla also emphasized that to establish strong market linkages, the government needs to find ways to encourage the private sector to have a greater role especially in areas where they have the competitive advantage like in processing and marketing. 

“We need to innovate to strengthen government institutions and make them responsive and effective in facilitating markets,” she said. 

Sombilla further stressed that the updated PDP 2011-2016 advocates for a new development paradigm that consolidates efforts of various agencies to generate quality employment and increase incomes in the agriculture and fishery sector. 

“For example, integrated programs on two key commodities, coconut and the fisheries, which are major sources of livelihood of a great number of the poor, are now being developed so that a comprehensive menu of services will be delivered by various agencies to enhance productivity and add value to the raw product,” she said. An integrated program has been developed to strengthen the coconut industry’s potentials not only for domestic but also for the international market. The Departments of Agriculture, Trade and Industry, Science and Technology, and Public Works and Highways, the National Anti-Poverty Commission, among other agencies, will jointly implement this program. 

“These agencies will have to work together to strengthen the commodity supply chain to get the small farmers involved and to maximize benefits from development gains,” the NEDA official said. 

Finally, Sombilla emphasized that agriculture will remain a priority sector to address the needs of the country’s growing population and to take advantage of market opportunities in fast growing economies in Asia. 

“Increasing agricultural productivity will support the necessary structural transformation of the economy and is a key factor to poverty reduction in rural areas,” she stressed.