By Joemar Yubokmee

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, in the first few minutes of his State of the Nation Address (SONA), promised to reduce the nation’s 23.7% poverty rate to nine percent by 2028. Although a highly ambitious forecast, with the right policies and efficient utilization of the national budget, a 14.7 decline in the poverty rate is not impossible.

Cartoon by Richelle De Arce

Being an archipelagic country surrounded by rich water resources, numerous agricultural lands paired with the perfect climate for growing crops, and hardworking individuals for a population, it is baffling why in 2020, the agriculture sector contributed only a meager 10.18% of the country’s total Gross Domestic Product.

The agricultural sector is an untapped resource that could catapult the country to being the largest exporter of agricultural products一something that would not only help those working in the sector but would also greatly alleviate the impoverished condition rampant in rural areas as raw agricultural products would open up opportunities for the unemployed as a boom in the industrial sector is imminent in the localities.

The first agendum for the agricultural sector mentioned in the SONA was the instruction for the Department of Agriculture (DA) to increase production through financial and technical assistance in the forms of ‘pautang’ and offerings of low price farm inputs courtesy of the government which would be buying them in bulk to be able to offer them in low prices. These initiatives are not new. In fact, these are programs currently spearheaded by the DA and local governments for farmers. What must be done is for the government to assess the efficacy of these programs because, despite the fact that these programs are being implemented, the situation visible on the ground is farmers who are in debt and suffering from the low buyout of their products

Another interesting segment of the SONA was when Marcos emphasized the need for research and modernity in the agricultural sector. He added that in undertaking measures to increase farm inputs, the DA must be wary that such measures do not contribute to the worsening condition of climate change and global warming. Although these words are supposed to be extra points for the president from environmentalists and climate change advocates, these words mean nothing if the actions of the government are in sharp contrast to their words. Marcos can’t emphasize the essence of research when research universities like the University of the Philippines, which offers the best agricultural courses, and even the Department of Agriculture, saw massive budget cuts.

Marcos also bared that he will be issuing an executive order that would set a moratorium on the payment of lands and interests which gave him a round of applause from the audience but what this actually does is to only delay the suffering of these farmers since a postponement of payments isn’t a real solution to the high debts and non-competitive products that are plaguing our local farmers. For this year, they could live a meager lifestyle but next year, the farmers and their families will have to be hungry again and their children forced to leave school. No extension or moratorium could truly help our farmers unless systemic changes are made.

The Dutertes and Marcos would be proud of the kilometers of farm-to-market roads they would build and they can call a bit of financial assistance their legacies but these things would only be a little help to the backbone of our country which is tired and famished. No amount of financial aid and now the measure of the distance of roads can truly make our farmers competitive. When they don’t have the means and access to advanced agricultural inputs and when their prices can’t compete with the imported products offered by Southeast Asian neighbors, they’ll incur losses more than the 68 billion lost by local farmers because of the Rice Tariffication Law which brought forth influx on imported rice but this would be much worse this time considering the Marcos administration intention to increase imports by 18% this year without giving any specifics on how his administration would combat any untoward yet catastrophic impact of this increase to local producers.

There is a dire need for a real agrarian reform that would tackle systemic issues like non-competitive product prices brought forth by one of the least modern systems. emplaced in Southeast Asia. The President can’t just implement programs that appear ineffective without considering other means to make these programs truly helpful to effect change in the lives of farmers. The President can’t just say powerful statements for his blind followers to rejoice in when the actions of the government are contrary to what they are offering.

Without the help of the agriculture sector, the level of unemployment would just increase causing a symmetrical increase in our poverty rates which is unfortunate considering how our geography and climate permits so much potential for success.


After the first State of the Nation Address (SONA), the Explained PH Opinion Desk shares a series of columns tackling the important areas of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s speech, including the necessary points that he did not mention.