Press Releases

OCTA survey reveals food-related issues dominate minds of Filipinos; Cha-cha to open the tap for capital-thirsty agriculture sector

January 25th, 2024

Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda
22 January 2024

The most recent OCTA survey demonstrates that a combined 56 percent of the population has food-related issues as their top priority. Jobs, wages, and poverty account for a combined 23 percent of households which have them as top priorities. All top five issues are kitchen table issues.

This administration’s focus, then, must continue to be to provide for the wallet and the dining table of the Filipino family.

That said, Charter Change is naturally not an everyday household concern – apart from signing onto the People’s Initiative, households have very little direct involvement in that process. But Charter Change, especially the House’s preferred amendments – are key to addressing the most urgent national concerns.

The key to boosting food production and reducing food prices in the Philippines is investment in agriculture. The flow of capital to the agriculture sector has been tightly strangled by restrictions in the Constitution and the resulting restrictions in our laws. These restrictions cover ownership, lease, transfer, and even foreign management – leaving foreign investors very little room for involvement in local agriculture.

The House-preferred provision on allowing the law to govern constitutional restrictions on foreign land ownership or use would unlock as much as 7.11 percent in nominal GDP growth – almost doubling agriculture’s contribution to the economy. That is because our agriculture sector is so starved for capital.

For example, our mechanization rate is about 1.23 horsepower per hectare for all crops, versus 1.6 horsepower in Vietnam (already easier to cultivate manually because of topography), Thailand, and Indonesia.

In Vietnam, while land ownership is not allowed, there is no hard foreign equity restriction on ownership of corporations leasing farmland, since at least 2013. Certain states in Malaysia allow foreign ownership of agriculture land specifically for export or agro-industry. In Indonesia, it is also relatively easy to undertake agriculture as a foreigner through a foreign-owned limited liability company. In Thailand, their Board of Investments can make exceptions to the general restriction against direct foreign land ownership. In the Philippines, no such legal alternatives that give the guarantee of tenurial rights exists.

As such, investors are extremely wary about investing in Philippine agriculture – with no guarantee of security for their heavy and long-gestating investments.

The House has long believed it is time to govern our land restrictions through legislation that can change with the times, rather than through hard-coded Constitutional prohibitions.

In 1987, we had only 57.4 million mouths to feed. With a population of 117.4 million now, we have to feed 60 million more people. It’s time to open the pipes of foreign investment to our capital-dry agriculture sector.

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