MANILA – As ASEAN countries gear up for economic integration by 2015, the Philippine government needs to enhance collaboration with the private sector to promote agricultural competitiveness, according to the National Economic and Development Authority.

“As Southeast Asian economies collectively gear up for regional integration, it is important to understand how public-private partnership schemes could facilitate the modernization of the agriculture sector and the revitalization of rural economies,” said Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan in his speech during the 2014 Asia Pacific Agricultural Policy Roundtable held at the Marriott Hotel in Pasay City on March 17.

Citing the lessons learned from the 2013 APAP forum, the NEDA Director-General explained that “one of the critical constraints to agricultural growth is the absence or the lack of efficient infrastructure system, particularly transport, power supply, and communication infrastructure.”

Balisacan added that this effectively increases the cost of doing business, which prevents small farmers from taking advantage of the opportunities in the rapidly growing areas, urbanized centers and foreign markets.

He emphasized the crucial need of increasing productivity and production, expanding markets, improving participation and value-adding activities, and building disaster resilience in enhancing agricultural competitiveness.

“However, the government cannot do this alone,” the Cabinet official added.

Balisacan also underscored that the Updated Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016 incorporates enhancing public-private partnership for agricultural development, especially for infrastructure and value chain development and management.

“The interventions include irrigation infrastructure, food supply chain and post-harvest services, production centers for various farm inputs, fish-farming infrastructure, and market and trading centers, among others,” said Balisacan.

He added that private sector investment, particularly in research, has been devoted to seed acquisition, exchange, distribution, and improvement of genetic stocks of crops, forest species, livestock, and fish using conventional and biotechnology applications.

“Investments may also be made in the production and distribution of improved seed and livestock, production of fertilizers and pesticides, and the development of more efficient management practices to optimize crop production,” said Balisacan.